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Exploring the many screaming fat men of The Coen Brothers


Many directors have a go-to trope. Whether it’s the eponymous ‘Spielberg Oner’ or Alfred Hitchcock’s classic use of POV shots, most auteurs have something to call their own that they can fall back on put to good use. The Coen Brothers are no different, they have their screaming fat men to rely upon.

In the chubby chequered history of The Coen Brothers, they have yielded a plethora of techniques that have reinvented cinema, and, if anything, while imitators have sprouted up, not enough filmmakers have caught on to the unrivalled depth that they display. 

Of the surface tropes that are self-evident, many fellow writers and directors have been quick to snatch upon their quick-fire dialogue and deft use of extras, but few have dared to brave the ubiquitous propagation of men on the heavier side simply letting out a howl.

Admittedly, seeing as though John Goodman features in just about every Coen Brothers movie and his larger-than-life ways make a belly-busting bellow very befitting of the role, it is notable that even in his absence, or presence for that matter, large men are forever screaming in the twisted realism of Joel and Ethan Coen. 

Far from a recurring factor that the duo decided to playfully employ in the comfort of their later established year’s the sonorous belly booms can be traced right back to their debut where M. Emmet Walsh barks his way through Blood Simple. As any fellow Coen scholars will know, Walsh is the first actor that they specifically wrote for with casting in mind. Thus, are we to believe that this was a long-seeded pre-fame desire? Some sort of fantasy that led them to movies in the first place? Is their entire glistening sui generis movie career, one big covert recapitulation of a rotund roaring reverie? And if so, who cares?

When we previously exposed Wes ‘Jeffrey Dogmer’ Anderson for his degenerate dog decimating ways, we asked whether there was any reason for the recurrence of perturbing pet abuse throughout his filmography and the rationale we clutched at was that the blasé response to the dower brutality clutched humour from the jaws of despair. What then do big guys making big noises bring to flicks like Fargo? After all, we’re talking about a duo who cram so much nuance and context into their work that they not only have a section in most good bookstores dedicated to the analysis of their work, but The Big Lebowski even spawned a genuine religion.

Well, in short, having John Goodman yell for a minute straight while covered in filth in the middle of jailbreak is inherently funny. No two way about it. And for all the subtle biblical references, the embellishments of Greek mythology, and literary symbolism that also runs throughout their work, if you can get a laugh into it then why not?

Passing up the basics in favour of staying within a coherent genre is a mistake that far too many films make. Life does not run linearly within the demarcations of a genre. The diegesis of existence are not plotted out in terms of ‘well, February was a bit of a thriller month, then March was a slow-moving indie picture’, thus why should art mimic this gimmick of genre constraints if it doesn’t have to? That is the beauty of the fat man deployment, it’s not all that noticeable until you notice it. These larger than life fellows with their penchant for yelling is just another part of the Coen’s world and we thank them for raising a chuckle. 

You can check out a supercut of the bawling big guys below.

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