Modernity and the Films of the Coen Brothers

Professor's Welcome

Julia Bader

Welcome to the black comedy of the Coen brothers. We’ll concentrate on three films, starting with their first, Blood Simple (1984), a neo-noir, influenced by film noirs of the 40’s and 50’s. But it is also a post-modern text about uncertainty, misunderstanding, and other films.

See you on October 4th,

Best, Julia Bader

Course Description

Through films ranging from Miller’s Crossing and Fargo to No Country for Old Men and True Grit, the Coen Brothers have distinguished themselves as masters in creating highly stylized filmic universes, charged with absurdity and violence. In this course we will discuss three of the Coen Brothers’ noir comedies, concentrating on the high and low cultural elements and discussing their use of Hollywood genres, parodies of classic conventions, and representation of arbitrariness.

Go here to see the course-description page on our website.

Monthly Readings



October 4th at 6 p.m.

Discussion Questions:

For our session, you might consider

  1. the “auteur” aspect: the presence of the director[s] in  the auditory and visual elements, its mixture of art film and popular culture, its gestures at horror film and film noir.
  2. the convolutions of the plot: its surprises, its regional characters.
  3. the “existential” themes of bad luck, uncertainty, isolation, bleakness.
  4. the comic elements.
You will, of course, bring your own interesting questions and observations.



November 1st at 6 p.m.

Discussion Questions:
Ponder the question of violence vs. black humor, personal responsibility vs. institutional authority  and the domestic refuge in a threatening world. Also, I hope we can discuss the Paul Bunyan figure and the golfing trophies in the car dealership office. And of course the night crawlers in the bag and the dung beetles on TV.



December 6th at 6 p.m.