10 Distinctive Voices In Film: Screenwriters With A Brand Of Their Own

The Coen Brothers

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Producing incredible cinema for thirty years, Joel and Ethan Coen are legendary screenwriters. They consistently create worlds and scenarios that are deliciously skewed and off-kilter, into which the audience can fully – and comfortably – immerse themselves. It’s not that their films are all light entertainment – on the contrary, they forever walk a fine line between light and a deep, menacing darkness. Rather, it is the fact that they neither spoon-feed, nor rise above the viewer, that makes their film scripts so enjoyable. Their work tends to encompass vast, philosophical and existential themes, but the brothers present them in such inventive and original ways as to make them easily accessible to all.

Their fierce debut in 1984 with Blood Simple heralded the arrival of a screenwriting team that could craft a tale with astonishing self-assurance and obvious talent. Steeped in sinister suspicion and menace, it packs as much of a punch three decades on as it did at the time of its release. Their follow-up script – Crimewave (written with, and directed by, Sam Raimi) – featured similar levels of deceit, double-crossing and dark comedy. It was 1987’s hilarious kidnap-caper Raising Arizona that first demonstrated the fact that these writers were not going to be contained by any single genre, however. The gate was opened for the gangster-shenanigans of Miller’s Crossing, the writerly conundrums of Barton Fink, the corporate dastardliness of The Hudsucker Proxy, and the creation of a definitive female hero in Fargo.

More recent years have shown us that these screenwriters are at their very best when starting with a blank page. Remakes of The Ladykillers and True Grit, and the screenplay for Gambit – while still infused with their distinctive story-telling methods – are among the weaker of their works, paling in comparison to The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men, and even Intolerable Cruelty. 2009’s A Serious Man saw a return to the feel of their earliest works, which seems to have opened something of a new phase for the brothers, continued with Inside Llewyn Davis.

All eyes are now on the all-star, all-Hollywood, all-Coen Hail, Caesar! – currently in pre-production.