The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – 7.9

There’s only one Coen Brothers – well, actually, there are two of them, but their vision is singular and unique. They are also masters of the craft of filmmaking; you feel they can do whatever they want, and you luxuriate in the experience. For the Coens, violence is an art, genres are meant to be played with, and laughter and terror are constant and uneasy bedfellows. If No Country for Old Men was a Dostoevsky novel, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a collection of Chekhov short stories, with allusions to Shakespeare, Chagall, Twain, Tarantino, Huston, and hundreds of Westerns before Indians became Native-Americans. Uniting the disparate stories was precise dialogue, erudite and literary, taken from a volume that looked like my Dodd, Mead Classics. My favorite was “The Gal Who Got Rattled,” for its sheer beauty, the complexity of its story and the acting of Zoe Kazan, although “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” set the table perfectly, was laugh-out-loud funny and merited its eponimity. Least favorite: “Meal Ticket.” Definitely on the plus side of the Coen Bros. ledger.

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