Still in commemoration of the first Cannes Film Festival being held on this day 67 years ago, the first installment of this new series about film will be about the Coen Brothers – the only filmmakers to have won the most number of Palm de mise en scéne (Best Director) plums at this prestigious French award-giving body.
The Coen Brothers began their affinity with filmmaking when they were still kids. Using a Vivitar Super 8 camera, Joel and Ethan would make films starring one of their friends based on the movies they watched on TV.
It should be noted that although the brothers would work on most of their films together, it was usual for only one of them to take the credit. This was because of rules that prohibited multiple director credits “to prevent dilution of the position’s significance.” In recent years, however, the Coen brothers were able to share the credit, as in their 2007 work “No Country for Old Men.”
The critically-acclaimed “Blood Simple” (1984) was the first film the brothers ever made. This effort, which follows the story of a “rich but jealous man” who enlists a private investigator “to kill his cheating wife and her new man,” had Joel winning the Best Director awards at the Sundance Film Festival and Independent Spirit Awards.
The Coen Brothers have made more than 20 films since then, most of which have received nominations and awards from some of the world’s biggest award-giving bodies.
The Coen Brothers have been part of the Cannes Film Festival for eight non-consecutive years now. They’ve garnered a total of seven wins and six nominations for all of their entries. Perhaps one of their biggest achievements to date is winning the Cannes Film Festival’s Palm de mise en scéne award three times for “Barton Fink” (2001), “Fargo” (1996), and “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001). As was usual, the credit went to Joel although Ethan co-directed and -produced all three films.
In a nutshell, “Barton Fink” follows the story of a playwright who becomes a screenwriter for a film studio in Hollywood. Aside from the Best Director nod, this film won the Cannes’ Palm d’Or (Best Film) and Best Actor for lead actor John Turturro.
“Fargo,” on the other hand, centers on the characters of “a pregnant police chief who investigates a series of homicides… and a car salesman who hires two criminals to kidnap his wife.” Post-Cannes, it was inducted inducted into the US National Film Registry as it was “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Meanwhile, “The Man Who Wasn’t There” is a “neo-noir film” about “a laconic, chain-smoking barber” whose plan to blackmail his wife’s boss and lover for money to invest in a dry cleaning business “goes terribly wrong.” Interestingly, Joel shared this award with David Lynch for the movie “Mulholland Dr.”
All three films went on to make waves after their respective stints at Cannes, all receiving nominations and awards at different major award-giving bodies. Most recently, the brothers won yet again at the Cannes Film Festival just last May for their opus, “Inside Llewyn Davis” – this time the festival’s “second place,” the Grand Prix, and both of them getting credited together this time as the directors, writers, and producers.
Like this article? You may also want to check out other film-related stories from our Friday Movie Flashback series!