Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin): “I’m fixing to do something dumber than hell, but I’m going anyways. If I don’t come back, you tell Mother I love her.”
Carla Jean Moss (Kelly Macdonald): “Your mother’s dead, Llewelyn.”
Llewelyn: “Well, then I’ll tell her myself.”
Those of you who’ve been enjoying my playful natterings about classic movies ranging from the 1930s to the 1970s might be surprised to see a bleak, bloodily violent, gallows-humored 2007 Western noir like No Country for Old Men (NCfOM) here on TotED. But you see, this thriller, written and directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen based on Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel, just happened to be my beloved mother’s absolute favorite film during the final two years of her life. On January 22nd, 2011, this very weekend, it would have been Mom’s 84th birthday. Now Mom was multifaceted, to say the least. The "Cherry Girl" side of our family affectionately nicknamed her "Auntie Mame" -- oh, and Cherry was Mom’s maiden name. Mom and her sister, my Auntie Joy (who died of pulmonary fibrosis just a few months after Mom did) told us many hilarious anecdotes about the boys’ reactions to the Cherry sisters’ surname in high school.
|Mom in New York City at Auntie Joy's NYC pad in the early Aughties.|
Mom and I talked on the phone almost every day, and when she moved to
|They shoot dogs, don't they? |
Hell yeah, when the dogs are trying to kill you!
|Anton Chigurh likes his work a LITTLE too much!|
|This definitely wasn't the kind of room service Llewelyn had in mind!|
In McCarthy’s world as seen through the Coen lens darkly, fate’s gonna catch up with you no matter how smart you think you are. In NCfOM’s particular setting, 1980 seems to be a time in the West when it was easier to victimize people. You get the feeling Chigurh was able to get close to his hapless victims simply because his sheer unnerving strangeness caught them off-guard. It’s a tribute to the power of Bardem’s portrayal of Chigurh that his comically unflattering Beatles moptop-cum-Prince Valiant pageboy haircut doesn’t prevent him from being one of the most horrifying villains in movie history. It got so that every time Chigurh showed up, I’d watch the rest of the scene between the fingers covering my face, because I knew Very Bad Things Were About To Happen. Bardem’s Chigurh is all the scarier because he can seem utterly calm and casual even as he blows people’s brains out with that pneumatic cattle gun of his. The damn thing can blow out locks as well as brains; its versatility certainly makes up for its cumbersomeness. My favorite black-humored sight gag: after Chigurh launches a protracted, agonizing attack in which a cop is killed, the camera pulls back to show that the floor is completely covered with scuff marks from the dead man’s shoes flailing and scraping against the floor during the struggle. There’s low-key, matter-of-fact humor in the dialogue (taken mostly from the novel). My favorite is this exchange between deputy Wendell (Garret Dillahunt) and Sheriff Bell:
Wendell: “It’s a mess, ain’t it, Sheriff?”
Sheriff Bell: “If it ain’t, it’ll do till the mess gets here.”
Be warned, NCfOM is not for the squeamish or for those who like endings neat, tidy and upbeat, with everyone getting what they deserve. Nevertheless, it haunts and grimly amuses me even now. No wonder this powerful film won 4 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Bardem, and Best Adapted Screenplay for the Coen brothers. I feel that NCfOM is not only one of the best films the Coens have ever made, but a modern classic all around!
Mom and Baby Siobhan, in late 1996
Dedicated to Jacqueline Tenore Kehoe, with love and laughter
January 22nd, 1927 — December 18th, 2009