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Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink 
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Post Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
I'm going to try something different here. Instead of starting off with my Barton Fink write-up, I want others to post theirs first, then I'll put up mine with response to others.

*This is a fancy, formal way of saying my write-up isn't quite finished, but I think the idea might work.


Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:54 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
Just noticed this is available on Netflix instant

Along with:
The Man Who Wasn't There
Fargo
Hudsocker Proxy
Raising Arizona
Big Lebowski

Sad to say I can't watch it tonight.

Rob


Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:22 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
Blood Simple was up for a short while as well, unfortunately they removed it :(


Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:29 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
I'm going to be brief as I want to go to sleep.

But I will come back and wax long-winded on a Wrestling Picture for The Common Man tomorrow. Because I so love this movie, the second-greatest film (behind Adaptation.) about writers/writing, I should quickly note that every single time I get irritated with someone for not comprehending something the way I wanted I always think back to Goodman's damning "YOU. DON'T. LISTEN!" Tragedy! Comedy! I'll be the first to knock out a rating with the highest mark of HIGHEST SCORE/HIGHEST SCORE. It's my #4 movie of the 90s, too.


Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:51 am
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
Ok, I'm cheating with this one. I wrote a paper on Barton Fink and it's relation to Los Angeles for a class last semester. My memory of writing it is a little hazy; I have a feeling I belted it out the night before it was due in what was assuredly a state of drunkenness. I tend to gloss over the themes, mainly because I had a page limit and couldn't go into much detail on everything. Also, I quote some random people because I needed a certain number of sources, and I have a feeling some of them are just used to pad the overall length. I think I managed to get an A- out of the whole thing though. Feel free to call me out if certain parts sound flat-out wrong (a distinct possibility) or if elaboration is needed. Anyway, here it is:

The tagline for Joel and Ethan Coen’s fourth feature film, Barton Fink, reads “Between heaven and hell there’s always Hollywood!” This is about as apt of a description for the world of Barton Fink as you could get. Compared to the rest of the Coen brothers’ filmography, Barton Fink is arguably the most complexly metaphorical and surrealist in tone and structure, with the possible exception of their recent film A Serious Man. It’s also one of their more fractured works, alternating between sharp satire and dark gothic horror from scene to scene. In this way, the film stands apart from many other L.A.-central productions, instead hovering closer to the Nathaniel West novel The Day of the Locust, in terms of its overall outlook on the city and the people who occupy it. Barton Fink is a scathing indictment of the L.A. Hollywood system of the 1980s, a film that paints both the city and the studios in both a satirical and gothic perspective as a nightmarish world where profit and formula take precedent over creativity and originality, coming from a pair of filmmakers who have made their careers primarily in the independent world.

The Coen brothers were among the first pioneers of the independent renaissance of the 1980s, a group that also included the likes of Jim Jarmusch, John Sayles, David Lynch, and Jonathan Demme, among others. The Coens made their debut with Blood Simple, a low budget neo-noir, and followed that up with the off-the-wall screwball comedy Raising Arizona and the gangster tale Miller’s Crossing. These films, while containing some commercial appeal and featuring recognizable actors, nevertheless existed outside the mainstream. Peter Biskind, in his article Introduction: the Story Till Now, writes “the Coens made forays into the studios, most of which ended badly. The studios were not about to bend over…for maverick filmmakers with their own ideas about how things should be done". Barton Fink was produced in the early 1990s, at a time when the filmmaking industry was devoted less to creative expression and more to the almighty dollar and the blockbuster event picture. The early boom of independent directors from the 1980s were struggling to find a way to get their films seen by wider audiences. Ironically, shortly after Barton Fink, a new wave of independent filmmakers, among them Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino, emerged successfully onto the scene. “In the 1990s, Hollywood had become even more focused on comic book, event pictures than it has been in the previous decade, creating a space, not to say an entire continent, for filmmakers who wanted to tell stories with a human scale”. The Coens would later make more extended trips into studio filmmaking, working with big-name actors like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, yet their independent sensibilities have always remained in the forefront. Barton Fink is the film that perhaps most accurately reflects the Coens’ relationship with the studio system. Even though it is set in Hollywood’s “golden age” of the 1940s, parallels can still be drawn to the plights of the modern day filmmakers.

The film is first and foremost a satire, with the targets being the people who operate the Hollywood system and the city of Los Angeles itself. The Coens populate the narrative with colorful supporting characters, each one a sort of piece to the overall sentiment that the Coens are trying to convey. Michael Lerner’s character of Jack Lipnick, the studio head who appoints Barton Fink to write a wrestling picture, is an intentionally exaggerated figure. All big talk and smiles at the beginning, the character is revealed by the end as a sort of dictator, exerting his influence over everyone who works under him. This is exemplified in the Tony Shalhoub producer character, Ben Geisler, who looks to be in complete control of his work until Barton reveals to him that he hasn’t written anything, which causes Geisler to go into a panic. By the end of the film, Lipnick’s true self is revealed, and his initial welcoming of Barton quickly turns into a hard-nosed demand for immediate production.

The world of Hollywood in the 1940s is presented as a gathering area for writers with previous success, though many of them have trouble adapting to the new environment. The character of W.P. Mayhew, played by John Mahoney, bears a close resemblance to the real-life writer William Faulkner, perhaps best known for his work As I Lay Dying, as well as his short story A Rose for Emily. However, Mayhew is not a literal representation of Faulkner alone; instead, he’s intended to be seen more as a symbolic figure for all of the celebrated writers who attempted to find work in Hollywood, for example F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nathaniel West, to name a couple. In many ways Mayhew is a future incarnation of Barton Fink, a writer who has turned to excessive drinking to combat his severe writer’s block. Mayhew’s recent work, entitled Nebuchadnezzar, is one of many Bible references scattered throughout the film. Cathleen Falsani, writer of The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers, writes “King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is a terrorist and a tyrant known for his love of gruesome torture”. In a specific scene in the movie, Fink reads Genesis, only to come across his words in the opening lines. Falsani writes “In the passage that Fink reads, the king is tormented by nightmares he doesn’t understand. He summons all his regular soothsayers and advisers to tell him not only what his dreams meant but what they were – an impossible task”. It’s another metaphorical message relating back to Fink’s severe writer’s block, and the possibility that he may well in fact one day become an incarnation of Mayhew.

Speaking of Barton, his character is the one that most closely aligns with the Coen brothers. In Barton Fink, the title character is an outsider, a man who has achieved some critical success in the world of the theater and subsequently attempts to gain more fortune in the world of movies. It’s clear throughout the film that Barton considers his foray out to Los Angeles as a temporary move, a quick way to earn some cash before returning to writing for the stage. This can be seen as a parallel to the Coens themselves: while they at certain points have ventured into the studio system, they have remained independents at heart. It should be noted though that Barton Fink isn’t the most likeable of protagonists. Despite his remarks about his wanting to tell the stories of the “common man,” when put into contact with a prime example in John Goodman’s Charlie Meadows, he isn’t interested in hearing his neighbor’s stories. Instead, he’s only interested in the “idea” of the “common man.” Despite his common upbringing as a Jew in New York, Fink has attempted to distance himself in an attempt to be seen as part of a more elite circle. In a sense, Fink is eventually punished for his callous attitudes and selfish motives. One of the final scenes in the film is between Lipnick and Fink, with Lipnick essentially enslaving Fink into the studio, regardless of the work that he puts out. The contract that Fink signed becomes a prison for Fink’s creative mind and soul. He will remain a slave to the Hollywood system, despite his best wishes to escape.

This bleak cynicism is common when working with satire, yet it also applies to the other side of Barton Fink, the side that more closely resembles gothic horror. The source of this horror comes almost completely from the Hotel Earle, where Fink takes up lodgings. Right when the setting is introduced, a dark and eerie atmosphere pervades the film. The mood is similar to that of film noir, with the building itself providing a large amount of tone and tension. Mike Davis, in his book City of Quartz, quotes Louis Adamic, “In spite of all the healthful sunshine and ocean breezes, [L.A.] is a bad place – full of old, dying people, who were born old of tired pioneer parents, victims of America”. The Hotel Earle is the kind of place where those “people” take up permanent residence. The hotel clerk Chet, played by Steve Buscemi, is first seen emerging from a cellar (Barton Fink). This can be read in a couple of ways. Perhaps the working class people of Los Angeles have been designated to the underground, only surfacing to accommodate those involved with the film industry. Or perhaps it is the first of many visual metaphors connecting the Hotel Earle with Hell, with Chet being a lone imp in charge of a large domain. It is not insignificant that Chet is the only person seen managing the hotel throughout the film.


Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:30 am
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
The metaphorical imagery continues in Fink’s room, which is darkly plain and ordinary, the only distinguishable feature coming from a picture hung over the desk of a woman sitting on a beach, looking out towards the ocean. The picture becomes a focus of Fink’s attention, and is intentionally mirrored in the film’s final scene, where Fink sits on a beach and a woman shows up and replicates the image, perhaps as a representation of Fink’s ambitions and dreams, which have been closed off to him. Also present in the room is the common image of the wallpaper peeling off. One explanation here is that the wallpaper further paints the world of Los Angeles in Barton Fink as an elaborate “smokescreen” that projects the illusion of elegance, when it reality the entire place is falling apart. It could represent Fink’s psyche as well; the more the wallpaper peels off, the inner turmoil within Fink becomes more severe.

The film takes a strong left turn around the middle point, where a dead body appears in Fink’s bed. The body belongs to Audrey Taylor, played in the film by Judy Davis, who had previously been shown as one of the few people present in the industry that Fink could confide in. Earlier, it is revealed that Audrey is in love with the Mayhew character, and has had a considerable input on his more recent written works. This upsets Fink, but he ends up sleeping with her, where she is killed sometime during the night. The killing off of this character comes as a shock, as up to that point in the film there have been no clear threats of violence, although admittedly there is an impending sense of doom. Yet, her death aligns with the message that the Coens are trying to get across; mainly, the idea that a mind of creativity, even one working under false guises, needs to be extinguished. The ambiguity of her death is also of interest. No direct explanation is given in the film, although there are several possible scenarios. One is that Barton Fink subconsciously murdered her in a rage over her “ghost writing” Mayhew’s works. Another, and one that seems more likely in the context of the film, is that Charlie Meadows killed her. This explanation seems to be more appropriate once it is revealed that Meadows is in actuality Karl Mundt, a serial killer who specializes in beheading his victims.

The Meadows/Mundt character is one that requires closer analysis. For a large majority of the film, he is presented as a likeable character, a representation of the “common man,” and the last person a viewer would expect to be involved in something more sinister. This changes with the arrival of two policemen, who inform Fink of Meadows’ true identity. Also introduced around this point is a rectangular box, which Meadows gives to Fink to hold onto for him. The film sets up the idea that the box contains Audrey’s head, yet no definitive answer is provided. The box could be another visual metaphor for Fink’s soul, something to be carried around yet always sealed away, never to be opened.

Meadows’ identity is confirmed in the climax, where all of the build-up present throughout the film is unleashed in a highly metaphorical scene of fire and violence. Charlie Meadows, who despite Fink’s doubts has still only been seen in the film as a supportive and friendly character, becomes an evocation of the Devil. The hotel corridor lights up in flames as a screaming Meadows runs down the hall, carrying a shotgun. He then proceeds to kill the two police detectives, informs Fink that the package that he entrusted to him isn’t his, and returns to his room while the corridor collapses in flames. Fink then proceeds to take the package and leave the hotel, in an attempt to remove himself from that “world”. Of course, as explained earlier, he can’t really ever leave, as Lipnick has essentially imprisoned him in the world of the film industry. The entire scene recalls Nathaniel West’s apocalyptic, nightmarish vision at the conclusion of The Day of the Locust. Both works present fairly standard looks at Los Angeles and Hollywood, only to have those looks dissolve into images of violence and chaos. Charlie Meadows, revealed to represent the Devil, presides over the hotel and the city, insisting that he’ll “always be here” in his room at the Hotel Earle.

As if having the Devil residing over Fink’s tenure in the city of Los Angeles wasn’t enough, there are also hints of racial tensions and even Nazism scattered throughout the film. The two police detectives are the best examples when discussing these, as they make mention of Fink’s name and him staying in the hotel, remarking “I didn’t think this dump was restricted.” It should be noted that the names of the two detectives are Mastrionotti and Deutsch, Italian and German names, respectively. Although the detectives are presented with American accents, it’d probably not too much of a stretch to see these two as representing the two major Axis powers of Germany and Italy. Ironically, the two detectives are later killed by Meadows/Mundt, who before pulling the trigger is heard ironically saying “Heil Hitler”. Also, certainly the images of the empty shoes lining the corridor bring up images of the stacks of shoes from Holocaust victims from WWII. There is the whole situation with Lipnick as well, who as previously mentioned “enslaves” Fink into service in the industry. Amusingly, he does this while dressed in a military uniform, as he has been commissioned in the Army reserve. Also interesting to note is he makes specific reference to “Japs,” while avoiding any mention of Nazis, perhaps putting some distance from any sort of comparison between himself and Hitler. It’s another interesting layer to a film that never reveals exactly what hand it is playing.

All this relates directly back to the experiences of the Coen brothers. Robert Sklar writes, in his article Hollywood and the Age of Reagan, that “a revival of B-movie culture becomes a defining aspect of popular rhetoric in the 1980s, prevalent both in box-office hit movies and presidential politics”. The Coens, although not completely cold towards this kind of studio entertainment, bring along with them their own style, which doesn’t exactly sit well with the Hollywood mentality. Sklar goes on to write “Hollywood’s Age of Reagan appears almost as a repudiation of the 1970s “Golden Age” and its portrayals of social disorder and corrupt power”. Barton Fink, then, is a condemnation of the more commercial-driven B-movie 1980s culture, as seen through the similar mentality of 1940s Hollywood. This is hinted at several times throughout the film, with several characters mentioning that the script that Fink is working on is essentially for a “B-movie.”

The world of Hollywood is something that the Coens have not gone back to reevaluate in their later films. Despite working at points in the Hollywood system with star actors and larger budgets, one gets the sense that Barton Fink still represents their mindset when it comes to the major film industry. Interestingly enough, their other major Los Angeles film, The Big Lebowski, avoids any mention of Hollywood altogether, instead focusing on the fringes of the L.A. society: artists, pornographers, potheads and Vietnam vets, a diverse cast that would fit right at home in a Pynchon novel. Barton Fink, though, veers closer to David Lynch territory, a surreal and oftentimes unsettling journey where a large portion of the material is subject to multiple interpretations. The film balances two distinct styles in an effort to make a statement about the nature of Hollywood. On one side, there’s the studio-focused satire, where Fink has to deal with controlling studio heads, overconfident producers, and alcoholic writers. On the other side, there’s the gothic horror present in the Hotel Earle scenes, where Fink struggles to write a script in a metaphorical space that may or not represent Hell itself. Regardless of how certain elements of the film can be interpreted, a couple statements come through clearly. First and foremost is the general attitude of the Coens towards the Hollywood system, an industry designed more around monetary profit than creative and artistic worth. Also relevant is their seemingly disgruntled attitude concerning the ignorance from Hollywood of independent filmmakers. Of course, this would change somewhat in the years following. Sklar writes “In the early 1990s Hollywood’s Age of Reagan began to appear spent...Facing the numbing glut of the information superhighway, Hollywood seemed consciously striving to preserve and restore historical memory, rather than, as in the Age of Reagan, to obliterate it”. Barton Fink stands as a film that in a sense bridged the gap between the two eras of the 1980s and 1990s, with the Coens being among the many leading the charge for a new wave of independent cinema.


Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:31 am
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
Well Hello Mr. Fink, glad to see you again.

This at times can be my favorite Coen film. John Turturro is never better than when paired with the Coens(truth be told, I find him a little annoying away from them at times) and John Goodman is pure genius and they allow him to hog the spotlight that he so richly deserves. He carries himself like a modern Jackie Gleason(not just the weight thing) in that he can be the zaniest when called upon but he can be the heavy too. In that way, and especially in this film, he is capable of sheer madness and it's always fun to watch. I'll have more but as my intro, I just wanted to celebrate the greatness of Goodman.

I see this as an 8/10


Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:42 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
I'll expand later, but this is one of the best purely visual movies ever made. You rarely see filmmakers put this level of confidence in the simple use of resonant images. The feeling evoked by (for example) the scene of John Goodman striding down a fiery hallway is more important than the literal situation in which it occurs. I think this is what fascinates me so much about the movie, even more than its themes or its impeccable storytelling.


Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:45 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
First I'd like to say that's some essay by Blonde Almond. I really enjoyed that.

I'm watching the film again tonight to better refresh my ideas and thoughts, but I'll offer this up in preparation.

Barton Fink is one of the very few postmodern masterworks in film. It's a film that resists interpretation, while at the same time encouraging it. It's an idea that is shown all over the film, especially with the constant references (both with dialogue and imagery) to the mind and body being 2 different entities. Postmoderism rejects simple dichotomies (good/evil, male/female, etc.), so it makes sense for the Coens to keep the mind/body idea separate with references, then to blend the two by the end of the film(and that final image is just mind-bendingly perfect). Barton Fink does this blending better than any film I know of and it causes the film to be as equally confusing as it is enlightening. It's a challenging film, but one that is ultimately very, very rewarding. It also throws in a ton of jabs at Hollywood, Nazis, and other stuff.

It also deserves a mention that they wrote the film while suffering from writer's block during the writing of Miller's Crossing. Writer's block is something anyone who has ever written anything has been inflicting with, and for the Coens to come up with this idea/film out of it is humbling. It's pretty remarkable.


Thu Oct 28, 2010 1:43 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
Has James reviewed this? Not on the site or Rotten Tomatoes. I know he has many reviews that he has not put up on the site.

As al alternative take... Jonathan Rosenbaum

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/ba ... id=1060668

Rob


Thu Oct 28, 2010 6:32 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
Robert Holloway wrote:
Has James reviewed this? Not on the site or Rotten Tomatoes. I know he has many reviews that he has not put up on the site.

As al alternative take... Jonathan Rosenbaum

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/ba ... id=1060668

Rob


I'm pretty sure he hasn't reviewed it, but he did call it his least favorite of the Coens's films in the Serious Man thread, although he added "with the caveat that I haven't seen [Barton Fink] in a long time."

The topic is here, and he mentions in on the first page of the thread:

viewtopic.php?f=39&t=1656&hilit=A+Serious+Man

Personally, I agree that it's simply incredible and a modern masterpiece, although I think as pure filmmaking craft it falls just below Fargo. As has been mentioned, its insights into the craft of writing are equal to nearly any film ever made. Turturro is masterful and surprisingly poignant when called upon, and the heft of the film's themes really sneak up on you in a positive way. I'm pretty firmly in the camp that not all great art comes across as such on intial viewing/listening, but I also think that truly great art will make you feel something other than apathy upon initial encounter. It's truly a film I'm grateful for.


Thu Oct 28, 2010 7:01 pm
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Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
My short review of it:

(*** out of ****) - An atmospheric, well-directed noir concerning a shy, socially troubled writer (John Turturro) suffering from writer's block, and how his relationship with his next door neighbor (John Goodman) in a seedy hotel changes his life. This movie is pure Coen Bros. stuff, with a good sense of humor, an ambiguous ending, and being able to draw out not one, not two, but three terrific performances (Turturro, Goodman, and Michael Lerner) thanks to how they construct their characters. The ending is all kinds of absurdity, but this actually helps the movie become something more than I originally perceived it to be. Some complain the finale gets too bizarre, but I found it to be bold as well as memorable. Although the film definitely suffers due to its slow pace and inability to get its audience to really care what happens to the rest of its characters outside of its two leads - this is still a worthwhile film that once again shows the twisted minds of the Coen Bros.

To put it simply, I liked it, but didn't love it. The pace was a little slow and I felt like they could have done a lot more with the always great Steve Buscemi character, and even Lerner's character is barely in it - I personally would've loved to see more of him. With that said, the ending is simply sensational. I don't think I'll ever forget Goodman sprinting down the hallway screaming. Once "the murder" occurs I got hooked, before then, eh, it's not bad, but not entirely gripping. But that's just me.

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Thu Oct 28, 2010 10:18 pm
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Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
This is one of my favorite Coen Bros. movies. I watched it early in my quest to see all of theirs (haven't seen their Ladykillers or Intolerable Cruelty yet, though I intend to) after seeing Fargo and The Big Lebowski. I'll rewatch it and post my thoughts though they won't be as well thought out and put together as Blonde Almond's (kudos).


Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:44 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
This was my second viewing. I'm coming in with questions...

-I know it doesn't matter, but what is in the box? Actually and/or metaphorically? You notice he starts taking off on his script with it directly by his typewriter.

-I get the feeling nothing in this film is literal. It is all metaphorical or symbolic of something. Am I completely off base here?

-"I'll show you the life of the mind!" Goodman's character is screaming this down a flaming hallway with a shotgun in hand, about to kill two detectives. Did he show us? What is the life of the mind?

-Blonde Almond...what grade did you get on that paper?


I really liked the film. It's a film that makes me ask questions, makes me think, and has imagery that sticks to the mind. Hey, wait, is that what the Coens mean..."the life of the mind." I don't know...but I wish there was more posts here.


Wed Nov 03, 2010 3:55 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
ram1312 wrote:

-I know it doesn't matter, but what is in the box? Actually and/or metaphorically? You notice he starts taking off on his script with it directly by his typewriter.


Whatever is in that box it's enough to get him to start thinking about the world outside of his limited universe. My guess? Alfredo Garcia's head. Whatever helps him pause and start writing something different than that which requires fishmonger's cries as bookends.

ram1312 wrote:
-I get the feeling nothing in this film is literal. It is all metaphorical or symbolic of something. Am I completely off base here?


I don't know... it's literal enough that the characters react as if they believe they're experiencing reality. There are lots of metaphors (hell is hotels) but the Coens are really after a story about Hollywood and the place of literary intent in the face of hopeless popcorn-numbed indifference. Among other things.
ram1312 wrote:
-"I'll show you the life of the mind!" Goodman's character is screaming this down a flaming hallway with a shotgun in hand, about to kill two detectives. Did he show us? What is the life of the mind?


I WILL! I WILL SHOW YOU! Great scene. "The life of the mind" is whatever isn't a stupid wrestling picture or, as Fink says, "something beautiful". Intellectualism v. "ordinary folk". Barton is a jerk; he needed to go on in writer's limbo like he needed a box without a head inside of it.


Wed Nov 03, 2010 4:43 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
There's a lot of irony to "the life of the mind." Barton is trapped (or traps himself) inside his own mind, and cannot understand anybody else's. And he lacks the introspection necessary to understand it. For all his soapboxing, his work doesn't understand the common man nearly as much as a Wallace Beery wrestling picture does.

If the hotel does anything, it crafts that feeling of Barton being trapped in his own mind. I'm not saying that's what it stands for or symbolizes or whatever, but it's a claustrophobic, dark, scary place with very little sense of a world outside or of other human beings present.


Wed Nov 03, 2010 6:50 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
majoraphasia wrote:
Whatever is in that box it's enough to get him to start thinking about the world outside of his limited universe.

I forget, but I think it's after the detectives first speak to him, when he realizes there might be a head in the box, that he loses his writer's block. This makes sense.

majoraphasia wrote:
I don't know... it's literal enough that the characters react as if they believe they're experiencing reality. There are lots of metaphors (hell is hotels) but the Coens are really after a story about Hollywood and the place of literary intent in the face of hopeless popcorn-numbed indifference. Among other things.

Then there's the final scene. Another metaphor? What's that all about? It's the exact picture that was in his hotel room, minus the diving bird. Are they trying to tell us that life is hell?

Ken wrote:
If the hotel does anything, it crafts that feeling of Barton being trapped in his own mind. I'm not saying that's what it stands for or symbolizes or whatever, but it's a claustrophobic, dark, scary place with very little sense of a world outside or of other human beings present.

But it's also the place where he gets "inspired" and writes the script. I guess places like that can also breed creativity...right?


Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:39 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
Note that inspiration does not strike until it is dragged in, kicking and screaming, by someone who has successfully broken in from the outside--someone who forces Barton to feel external stimulus. Anybody notice the strange ways that the hotel behaves whenever Charlie's around? The wallpaper peels. The cracks ooze. The damn hallway bursts into flame.


Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:34 pm
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
majoraphasia wrote:
Whatever is in that box it's enough to get him to start thinking about the world outside of his limited universe. My guess? Alfredo Garcia's head. Whatever helps him pause and start writing something different than that which requires fishmonger's cries as bookends.


Exactly.

majoraphasia wrote:
ram1312 wrote:
-"I'll show you the life of the mind!" Goodman's character is screaming this down a flaming hallway with a shotgun in hand, about to kill two detectives. Did he show us? What is the life of the mind?


I WILL! I WILL SHOW YOU! Great scene. "The life of the mind" is whatever isn't a stupid wrestling picture or, as Fink says, "something beautiful". Intellectualism v. "ordinary folk". Barton is a jerk; he needed to go on in writer's limbo like he needed a box without a head inside of it.


Another exactly. Hopefully I can tie all these quoted thoughts together in just a second.

Ken wrote:
There's a lot of irony to "the life of the mind."


By a lot, I'm hoping you mean, completely. I know you do, I'm just using that snide comment for effect.

Ken wrote:
Barton is trapped (or traps himself) inside his own mind, and cannot understand anybody else's. And he lacks the introspection necessary to understand it. For all his soapboxing, his work doesn't understand the common man nearly as much as a Wallace Beery wrestling picture does.

If the hotel does anything, it crafts that feeling of Barton being trapped in his own mind. I'm not saying that's what it stands for or symbolizes or whatever, but it's a claustrophobic, dark, scary place with very little sense of a world outside or of other human beings present.


Check out how his hotel room is set up. It's set up like a head. The two windows on the wall serve as eyes, the door at the bottom serves as the mouth, etc. Barton has trapped himself in his own mind in a ridiculously misguided attempt to live "the life of the mind". As if something like that can possibly exist in the first place.

Barton is one of the most self-absorbed protagonists in movie history. His claims to understand the common man are completely for show. He's playing an artist. He really only cares about telling one story, his own. The play he writes contains references to his mother and himself. The fact that his screenplay and play contain the same lines is further evidence that he's, yet again, telling his own personal story, soapbox speeches about the common man be damned.

Barton's reliance on his own personal story comes from him being out-of-touch with the real world. His exile is self-imposed, however, so it's impossible to feel sympathetic towards the guy. He ignores everything his friend, and legitimate common man, Charlie is telling him and chooses to instead espouse the virtues of himself and his "noble" intentions.

Sir Barton Fink is nothing but a pretentious fuck posing as a New York intellectual.

My favorite image in the film is the shoes lined in the hallway outside of the rooms. You get the feeling that the Hotel Earle (which is definitely a metaphor for hell) is filled with Barton Fink's. These pretentious fakes attempting to separate mind and body like it's some worthwhile effort. These people are exactly where they belong.

As for the picture and the final shot, I think it's about complexity or nuance. As I alluded to in my other post, it can be seen as the postmodern rejection of simple dichotomies. Everything in the film is either this or it's that (mind/body, intellectual/common man, legit artist/sellout, etc). I think from the moment Audrey's dead, mutilated body is found in Barton's bed, the film is intentionally mixing art and life. It's been a slow process throughout the movie, but at that point the movie takes on an incredible surreal feel. The audience doesn't know what's real, and the characters in the film don't, either. Audrey's death defies logic, Charlie being a serial killer does too. Barton ending up in the picture he's been looking at for so long in his room is the personification of that thought. He's gone from looking at the picture while trapped in his own mind to literally being in that picture. Barton the "artist" has blended into Barton the real man. They're one in the same. That thought rejects everything the film has presented in regard to its relationships between pretty much anything. It's something that should be liberating for Barton for exactly what major pointed out in his post - it gets him thinking about the world outside of his limited universe. He's no longer playing the role of artist, he has the capacity to actually be one now.

One could even say the film is the Coen's own wrestling picture as the central conflict surrounds Barton wrestling with what it is to be an artist.


Mon Nov 08, 2010 10:47 am
Post Re: Reelviews Movie Club, Say Hello to One Sir Barton Fink
Wow...that's awesome. How many times have you guys seen this movie?


Mon Nov 08, 2010 12:10 pm
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