Sunday, November 15, 2009


I put up a new post last night about the Coen brother's new movie, A Serious Man, but it isn't here, although I definitely saved it. I guess I have to write it again.
One newsflash before I do: the caregiver didn't leave! I'm happy to say that. However, her furniture is still gone. Either that means that she is going to leave or that she is moving out of that house and into another one the owner has. Either way, that isn't good. I guess I'll ask her what's up.
About the film: I saw the movie last night, and I found it really thought provoking. As any review will tell you, this is a remake of the story of Job, set in late sixties suburban Minnesota, a milieu native to the Coens themselves. Unlike my old stomping grounds in Philadelphia, an urban shtetl closer to the roots of old world immigrants (a step up from the tenements, but not much of one), this is goyishe suburbia, but inhabited almost exclusively by country club Jews.
The main character is a physics professor, Larry Gopnik, a shlemeliel to beat all shlemiels. Mild mannered to a fault, he accepts without rejoinder his wife's unfaithfulness, his neighbors' insults, the rabbis' mealy-mouthed homilies, his supervisor's insinuations. Like Job, he is definitely being tested. Is he really a virtuous man? For most of the film he does not fall to temptation, until, after his wife leaves him for a disgusting and hypocritical neighbor (who later dies, and then she makes him pay for the man's funeral), and his financial world collapses, causing him to take the bribe a student gives him for a passing grade. Then he gets a cosmic answer to the question he has been pursuing, of what God is trying to tell him with all these accumulated disasters. There is even a satanic presence, in the form of the single most soulless-looking woman I have ever seen, a seductive neighbor, who sunbathes in the nude.
I will not spoil the rest of the film for you. Though if you are not Jewish you will probably be a bit puzzled at some of the references, much of it is pretty comprehensive. You may wonder at the Yiddish frame of a film, a seemingly-unrelated scenario set in Lithuania, which features a possibly supernatural presence. But it isn't irrelevant... far from that.
In this film, the Coen's, who have always been the Jewish clowns, tumlers, of tradition, only in film, make an explicit comment on the Jewish and western spiritual tradition, while in earlier films, that comment had only been tacit.


Lou said...

Love everything the Coens do.

Robbi said...

I do too, except, strangely, I didn't much like that one about the Dude, the bowling guy, that was such a cult hit. It seemed pointless to me.