The Coen Brothers and Hair

ED
Frank.
FRANK
Huh?
ED
This hair.
FRANK
Yeah.
ED
…You ever wonder about it?
FRANK
Whuddya mean?
ED
I don’t know… How it keeps on
coming. It just keeps growing.

Inside Llewyn Davis portrayed one of the most melancholic and honest deceptions of the folk scene in the early 1960’s or rather, of music in recent years. There hasn’t been a Coen Brothers film that has split viewers on two separate sides with such strong opinions since The Big Lebowski. The lack of plot caused unrest in the general audience.The Coen Brothers have kept their artistic individuality so close to their films that studios hardly tend to interfere with their process which is a achievement in itself. It is that artistic individuality that allows them to create a film without plot and get away with it. They follow a pattern in which they make one for themselves and one for the general audience. True Grit was their gift to the audience and Inside Llewyn Davis was a more personal creative passion.

They are film-makers who are unpredictable. Because of this they suffer and also are freed from a consistency. Audiences and critics alike may applaud them but have a short memory of the film. In the short term, their films are forgotten, in the long term, usually after their death or retirement, they are remembered as artists and innovators. Much like a man named Kubrick.

An example can be sought.

A simple moment which I noticed which verifies the credibility of my statement.

Back to 2001, when the Coens released a stylish tribute to the Film Noir genre, The Man Who Wasn’t There, with a chain smoking Barber, Ed Crane, emotionally detached silent near-invisible protagonist who blackmails his wife’s boss, Big Dave, for money to invest in a a dry cleaning business with a man by the name of .

{SPOILERS]
Eventually, things go wrong. (Because otherwise what would be the point?) Big Dave finds out that Ed is responsible and confronts him. A violent fight occurs which ends with the death of Big Dave. Ed flees only to find out in the following days, that his wife is arrested in connection to her boss’ death. Ed also finds out Big Dave was having an affair with his wife. Right before Ed’s wife’s trial, she kills herself. After all these events, Big Dave’s widow tells Ed of a camping trip she had taken with Big Dave the previous summer. She claims that an alien space ship landed near them, and Big Dave was taken aboard the ship and that Big Dave’s murder is part of a government conspiracy to cover up the alien abduction.

Later, Ed is arrested. For the murder of Creighton Tolliver which he did not commit. He is put on death row. The night before he is executed, he finds his jail cell open. He goes outside and and sees a UFO flying outside. He gives a nod and goes back inside. The next morning, he goes to the electric chair with thinking thinking about meeting his wife and possibly having the words to explain his thoughts to her. He says he feels bad for the pain he caused others, but regrets none of his actions; he used to regret being a barber. Classic.
But what’s with the aliens?

Rewind. To a scene in the middle of the film. One that had no relevance and no significance to the film, that did not contribute to the story at all. Ed stands cutting hair. Frank, the co-owner of the shop, sits reading a magazine. Ed comes into a moment of self-awareness. He questions hair. He remarks how strange it is, constantly growing and yet we cut it. He finds hair, the regeneration of hair peculiar. By this, he is making a statement of the pointlessness of his work. An expression of a nihilistic depression. He then says;

ED
…I’m gonna take his hair and throw
it out in the dirt.
FRANK
What the–
ED
I’m gonna mingle it with common house
dirt.

Is Ed comparing the hair to plants which grow once planted? Is this a statement on the fighting spirit of humanity? Perhaps he, as an individual that is so alienated and clueless of his life and his objectives, is an alien himself, therefore this explains why he is so different from everyone else and why he can’t adapt to his life? Why would the Coen brothers put into a black and white neo-noir film about a complex murder and love story? What does this scene signify?

Is that the question or is this scene a statement of the detail the Coen Brothers tend to underlay in a film, the signature of their technique and style, the intensity of their unpredictability and the language they imprint in their script?

Such is the monumental interest, a single scene out of place, can generate.

And such are The Coen Brothers.

The Man Who Wasn't There

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