The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs ★★★★

I would buy this as a book. The movie came out 2 years ago, I'm surprised an exact replica of the one whose pages we see turning between each segment in this doesn't exist yet. Like Tarantino films, although certain priceless effects of their original incarnation cannot be translated between mediums, I bet every Coen Bros. work would make a great read as a novel. As I conclude this monthly re-watch series of all their titles with "Buster Scruggs", what charms me most looking back on all 18 adventures is their literary amusement with verbiage. I probably mentioned it in every single one of the reviews. The vernaculars, slang, obsolete words and phrases, fanciful names, ornate monologues and pithy sentiments alike, adorable Minnesotan accents, screwball fast-talk, the bitter jargon of classic noir, L.A. stoner gibberish, mannered deep South rhetoric, obscure terminology that you wouldn't even find in a thesaurus, one uniquely stylized world of expression after another. Making an anthology like "Buster Scruggs" reveals the cascade of different articulation techniques they delight in and how each one defines the tone of its particular tale:

1) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: flowery, whimsical and witty, plus a few entire songs crooned by Tim Blake Nelson to establish that Coens commitment odd, immersive self-aware ambience as well as to nail in the playful exaggeration of genre tropes on display.

2) Near Algodones: clipped and sardonic, like Franco's deadpan fumble through life (with a side order of tongue twisting nonsense by his antagonist Stephen Root).

3) Meal Ticket: almost entirely silent narratively, even though you hear Harry Melling performing and repeating verbal theater nonstop. Stoic, speaks for itself visually. Some of the great speeches in art and history are introduced to various mountain communities (for mercenary gain), yet the only two characters in this have nothing at all to say to each other.

4) All Gold Canyon: also largely nonverbal, a silent short film but for the funny grizzled mutterings, stream of conscious singing and infrequent self-narrating of a guy hard at work.

5) The Gal Who Got Rattled: straightforward dialogue, albeit soaked in formal mannerisms of frontier times and revealing of interesting bygone era gender dynamics.

6) The Mortal Remains: performative blabbering by three of the passengers who each prattle on so long about their trivial lives that their inability to stop talking becomes like white noise (on purpose, surely), and then some cryptically clever commentary by one of the bounty hunters and a full length a-cappella rendition of a traditional folk ballad by Brendan Gleeson as they usher their cargo into the afterlife.

I know this is more just an explanation of what the movie contains than any insightful review of it, but it tickles me to sift out the differences in language employed by each segment. Anyway, still a rich sampler platter of Coenisms. I am helpless to resist any movie whose characters use excavated words like "cognomens", "apothegm", and "emolument". Has any human being on earth said any of those out loud in the past 50 years? This cromulent balderdash embiggens my jingle bobs!

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