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Barton Fink

John Turturro , John Goodman , Ethan Coen , Joel Coen    R (Restricted)   DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 11.98
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Barton Fink + Miller's Crossing + O Brother, Where Art Thou?
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A darkly comic ride, this intense and original 1991 offering from the Coen brothers (Fargo, Blood Simple) gleefully attacks the Hollywood system and those who seek to sell out to it, portraying the writer's suffering as a loony vision of hell. John Turturro (Miller's Crossing, Jungle Fever) plays the title character, a pretentious left-wing writer from New York City who is brought to 1930s Hollywood to write a script for a wrestling movie for palooka actor Wallace Beery. Fink thinks the job is beneath him, but his desire for acceptance gets the better of him, and he suddenly finds himself holed up in a fleabag hotel in Los Angeles, where he is almost immediately afflicted with writer's block. Various distractions begin to enter his life, first in the form of a famous southern writer (John Mahoney) whom Fink idolizes, and then his neighbor in the hotel, a seemingly amiable salesman played by John Goodman (Sea of Love, Raising Arizona). The writer turns out to be a self-loathing drunk whose secretary (Judy Davis) is the one actually doing the writing. And the neighbor, the working-class hero who Fink made his reputation writing about, may have a horrifying secret of his own. Equal parts social commentary and hilarious farce, and winner of the Best Picture, Actor, and Director prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, Barton Fink is a visionary and original comic masterpiece not to be missed. --Robert Lane

Product Description

Set in Hollywood during the 1940's, "Barton Fink" is a comic satire about creative egos, flashy moguls, a travelling salesman and a nasty case of writer's block. Barton Fink (John Turturro) is a New York playwright lured to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter. It doesn't take long for Barton's life to erupt in complete chaos. His studio boss orders the serious-minded Barton to write a low budget wrestling movie. Deeply disappointed, Barton returns to his seedy hotel, types one sentence and then¿ nothing. To make matters worse, he is continually interrupted by Charlie (John Goodman), a chatty travelling insurance salesman who lives next door. Eventually they become friends and Charlie tries to help Barton by teaching him the finer points of wrestling. As the clock ticks away and the temperature climbs, Barton becomes more desperate as his life spins out of control.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but rewarding July 18 2004
By A Customer
Barton Fink is a nightmarish film and a black comedy, much of which takes place in a lifelike hotel sparsely populated by grotesque characters. Barton is himself a nervous, self-absorbed nerd, and fits right in. His roomate, Charly, is an overweight salesman with an ear infection who has some kind of bizarre telepathic connection with the hotel. Their conversations are sublimely entertaining, and undeniably the work of the Coen brothers.
Even if the somewhat self-absorbed plotline of a playwright unable to write a wrestling screenplay due to personal eccentricities doesn't interest you, the film is visually fascinating from beginning to end. Stylistically, it resembles a mutation of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, which in itself should promise a good, eerie, challenging two hours of surrealism and allegory. Indeed, it's full of clever visual clues that will spark arguments over what it all means. Should be of interest to the artsy-fartsy crowd, conventional types shoudn't waste their time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Why this is Hell, nor am I out of it. May 25 2004
By JR Dunn
Okay, "Barton Fink" is a satire on the old studio system. It may also well be a symbolic depiction of the Holocaust. The Book of Daniel certainly features strongly in the mix. And it's an attack on the foibles of the twitchy intellectual, particularly the self-righteous left-wing "voice of the people" type. But, just to keep the pot boiling, let me point out that the film's narrative framework is adapted from the legend of Faust. In large part, Christopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus".
The Faust figure is Barton, needless to say. Charley/Karl is Mephistopheles. And Audrey is Gretchen/Marguerite, the admired female figure who turns out to be a little less than what was desired. Barton is frankly devoted to the life of the mind, obsessed with creativity and the longing to learn the secret of life and bring it home to the Little Man, the Common Man. Charley/Mesphisto offers his assistance (by teaching him wrestling--this is a Coen brothers film, remember). He fails, but at last Barton does sell his soul--to Audrey, the no longer idealized "eternal female". And as the deal is sealed with a bout of sex, the camera glides to the bathroom sink, where it slides down (I stole this part from John Simon) straight to Hell, which is ruled not by friendly, easygoing Charley, but by Madman Mundt (the real Karl Mundt, by the way, was a notorious right-wing congressman of the period, for what that's worth).
So okay, it's not a one-to-one correspondence. But neither was "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" perfectly congruent with the Odyssey. (e.g. which one was Homer--the old black guy with the beard or the country DJ?) The Coens use these sources not as road-maps, but as takeoff points, which is as it should be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Startling and impenetrable. May 4 2004
Easily the smartest of the Cohen Bros. films (and the darkest), Barton Fink employs an amazing economy of substance to weave a multiplicity of complex stories and meanings into an entertaining piece of very appealing cinematography.
To be found here are a number of different parables, all well-developed and supported by the meticulous detail in the film... everything from an allegory on the rise and course of Nazism during the 1940's, to a critique of communism constructed as warning about the secretly borgeious nature of the common man's intellectual, to an 8 1/2-esque statement about the dangerous and self-digesting face of the commercial-artistic milieu in the modern marketplace-studio. At play also are a number of riddles, including an imagined head that pits postmodernism against phenomenology, a biblical dance with Nebuchadnezzar for those who know their Bible, and a reversal of the narrative order through the presence of a hidden film-within-a-film.
Many mainstream critics focus on one particular interpretation of the film or fixate on one of these riddles and gloss the rest of the film's richness away as "surrealism" or "stylized darkness." Readers who read a number of these seemingly disparate reviews might be startled to find them all to be correct when held up to the film itself. A much more enjoyable way to explore the complexity and astonishing intelligence of the writing behind Barton Fink, however, is to watch it repeatedly.
Indeed, you'll notice something new, connect a few different dots in a different way, each time you see it. That the Cohen Bros. were not more richly rewarded for constructing such a remarkable "text" is sad indeed!
One of the best films of the twentieth century.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I've been waiting YEARS for this DVD... Feb. 12 2004
For a long time, the absurdist masterpiece Barton Fink was only available in a dingy VHS release. It was better than nothing, but this film deserved better. Thankfully, it's here - in all its stupefying glory.
I won't recount the story. Plenty of other reviews do that. Not long ago I was tempted to interpret it. That still seems a valid course, as there is a genuine sense that, beneath its comic, surreal surface, Barton Fink is trying to tell us something urgent and important. Perhaps, but the primal forces in a writer's mind as s/he shapes a great story do that, anyway - often without the writer's specific knowledge.
Rather than a simple allegory, Barton Fink is a collection of surfaces, styles, textures, and mannerisms. That they seem to add up to more than the sum of their parts is the great trick, akin to the way a painter can suggest the dappled depths of a forest with a few deft pats of a fan brush. Which isn't to say the film is shallow. No; there is a lot going on here. But to suggest that this film has a specific meaning is also to suggest it has an answer. Only mediocre films (by the likes of, say, Stanley Kramer or Oliver Stone) provide answers in a attempt to make themselves more important. The Coens (writer Ethan, director Joel), like most of us, haven't a clue about the Mysteries of Life. So they don't try to "...tell us something about all of us, something beautiful..." as Fink himself professes. Instead, they enjoy "...making things up...", like the other writer in the film, the Faulkneresque W.P. Mayhew (played to perfection by John Mahoney).
Somewhere in here, though, the sleight-of-hand, the postmodern flourishes (wherein genres clash and surfaces spill over one another in unexpected ways), cracks appear.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by madeleine champagne
1.0 out of 5 stars Not good
I love the Cohen Brothers but this movie was all over the place. Very strange and a bad ending too.
Published 18 months ago by Jennifer Stanton
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life of The Mind
This is a movie not to be missed.Its subtelty, plus the acting of John Goodman and John Terterro, marks it out as one of the Coen Brothers best. Read more
Published on March 6 2011 by Anthony Murphy
3.0 out of 5 stars They did improve.
I enjoy Coen brothers' movies... usually. This was an exception. I'm happy it was not the first of their movies I viewed, or it might have been the last. Read more
Published on June 28 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars More Coen Brothers!
Okay, so I didn't understand everything that happened in Barton Fink, but I enjoyed it none the less. Read more
Published on April 16 2004 by James R. Mckinley
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Know Why, But I Love It.
I am a huge Coen Brothers fan, I dont know why I like their films but I find them all entertaining. I guess because you never know whats comming next in a Coen's film because there... Read more
Published on March 5 2004 by P. A. Tamblyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre trip through the world of Hollywood
Barton Fink is a New York writer with on the cusp of real success when he receives a lucrative offer. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2004 by Jeffrey Leach
4.0 out of 5 stars Did I miss the point?
Ok. Before you read this, don't get me wrong. I liked this movie...a lot. It steps outside the conventions of hollywood. But I'm not exactly sure I understand the whole message. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2004 by M. H. Ullerup
5.0 out of 5 stars The life of the mind
Probably the most enigmatic of the Coen Bros. movies, Barton Fink makes you think. In a professed exploration into "the life of the mind," the Coens have created a very... Read more
Published on Dec 27 2003 by James Ferguson
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