Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Leonard Smalls & Anton Chigurh Redux

I'm going to be on the road for the next few days, but I'm trying to stick to a Tuesday/Friday blogging schedule. It's hard to come up with something original at the La Quinta in North Platte, Nebraska, so I'm going to the recycling bin.

Today's post ran last August. I didn't have a lot of readers last summer, so I'm thinking this will be new for most people. According to Blogger stats, this post has more page views than any post in life of riles history. Only two people left comments, so apparently there are a lot of people out there searching for images of either Leonard Smalls or Anton Chigurh. Who knew. Please feel free to weigh in on my amateur film analysis. 

I'm a huge Coen brothers fan. The Big Lebowski is my all-time favorite movie, but that's not what I want to write about. I recently watched Raising Arizona again, and I couldn't help noticing some striking similarities to another Coen film: No Country for Old Men.

If you've seen both of these films, the comparison may seem like a stretch, but I've been thinking about this a lot the past couple weeks (just ask my wife), and not only do I think the films are eerily similar, I think a case can be made that they are essentially the same movie. For the record, I don't consider that a bad thing. In fact, I think it's genius.

Both films have the same basic premise.  The protagonist takes something that doesn't belong to him, and then is relentlessly pursued by a demonic antagonist.  The Coens deftly use both Leonard Smalls and Anton Chigurh as symbols.

You don't have to be a film expert to realize these two characters represent pure evil.  On a deeper level, the Coens use the bounty hunter and the hitman to symbolize the evil of the times, which happens to be the 80s in both films, catching up with America.  Or something like that.  The Coens do love their symbolism.  I'm certainly open to other interpretations.

There are other, smaller similarities as well.  Both movies are set in the desert Southwest.  Both films have friendly police officers, and finally, both movies feature lengthy scenes with dogs chasing the protagonist.  There are more, but you get the point.

Now, having tried to make the case that Raising Arizona and No Country for Old Men are basically the same movie, I want to give the Coens their due.  These cats are auteurs, so I'm pretty sure they did it on purpose.  Even though the films are quite similar, the tone is completely different.  Raising Arizona was made pre 9/11, and the movie is essentially a comedy.  NCFOM was made post 9/11, and it is most definitely not a comedy, unless you tend to the very dark.  I have a feeling the Coens made the same movie to illustrate how different our world has become.

Of course, this could all be complete nonsense.  I can't help myself.  I watched a lot of Siskel and Ebert growing up.


  1. Hmm, never really thought about that before, but I see your point. Love the Coen brothers too, and you're probably right. Could be they're attracted to stories like that and seek them out so they can revisit certain themes.

    Stats are weird. I have a post from when I had probably three followers. It had two comments -- one reader's plus mine. It is now my second highest viewed post ever. I have no idea why.

  2. I'm glad you decided to recycle this post. I never would have thought of this, but you make a good point. I like the idea of making the movies so similar to illustrate how much the world has changed.

    The post stats are funny. I've noticed that my post from the A-Z challenge about Count Von Count is a big hit on my blog, and when I look at the google keywords half of them are some form of the Count. He is the superstar of my blog. :D

    Have a safe drive!

  3. I am not much help on the comments as the only movie out of the three that I saw was Raising Arizona. Takes more than one to make a comparison.

    I am familiar with North Platte though. Aren't you having fun??? HMMM not into Buffalo Bill Cody stuff??? How about going over to Paxton and eating at Ole's Big Game Steakhouse??? What's 30 miles or so to see the big stuffed
    animals. Besides you just have to love a joint that opened at 12:01 the day prohibition ended.

  4. Smart. A novel idea. So many movies today are remakes of remakes but your theory is definitely not in that category.

  5. LG: I agree, the Coens revisit certain themes in their work, and to their credit, it doesn't feel repetitive when they do.

    Julie: I love that post about the Count! I guess a lot of people are looking up the Count too.

    Cheryl: Oh man, didn't see your comment in time, but I'll keep the recommendation in mind for next time through.

    dbs: Of course, the Coens are pretty good at the remake thing-I loved their take on True Grit.

  6. I a glad you recycled this as well. Missed it first time around. Very interesting.

  7. Haven't seen NCFOM, but now I want to. Big, big fan of the Coen brothers...

  8. interesting, i would have never made that connection, but i think you have a point

  9. I adore Cohen brothers, but I'm still trying to figure out No Country for Old Men. Thank you for the post.

  10. Love the Coens. They are pure genius.

  11. I gave you an award at: