Film Review – O Brother where art thou? (2000), Dir. Coen Brothers
Well, it’s taken a little while for a print to get to us, but this week Sunnyside will finally get the chance to view the box office smash hit. Since 1984, the “two headed director” have been making iconic movies, most notably the quirky uniqueness that is “Fargo”. What many residents will not know is that while the story is set in 1930s Minnesota, the brothers’ birthplace, it owes a great deal to our own state of Massachusetts.
The Coen Boys both graduated from Simon’s Rock College (now Bard College at Simon’s Rock) in the western part of MA. So how is far away Great Barrington connected to us. Well, it took this reporter some work, with gratitude to Granny Spencer, who “never forgets a thing” having “been here forever”.
In 1977, when the boys were both at Simon’s Rock, it seems they decided to cut a rug (so to speak), and bizarrely emulating the heroes of O Brother, hopped on a cross-State freight train bound for Innesmouth. The story goes that just past Ipswich a conductor found them hidden in a box car and “turfed the freeloaders out” while crossing the Manuxet River bridge.
Fortunately for them, and thousands of future devoted movie buffs, the Coens landed in the swollen river and survived the ‘fall’.
We tracked down the reluctant ex-conductor recently, who wished to remain anonymous, but did confirm he had “once given two youths a free flying lesson” and was “glad they hadn’t died”. He also expressed surprise when told they had landed in the flooding waters. “I hadn’t realised we were that far along the bridge.”
Somewhat the worse for wear, the pair washed up on our side of the torrent; those with long memories will recall we’d had bad rains for several weeks that season, with even the old salt works getting a soak, the river was so high. Jonah Johnson, was fishing that day and pulled the boys out, before bringing them up to the Doc’s House, suffering from shock and exposure.
Ethan was the worst of the two, raising a fearsome fever and unconscious for three days. In all they stayed in Sunnyside over a week till they were well enough to travel back to their college dorm after a quick check up at Ipswich General.
We contacted the Coen Brothers recently to congratulate them on their latest box office smash. Ethan told us that the whole idea for the movie came to him in a dream, while staying with us, though it was “mostly forgotten for over two decades.” Coen said for many years the idea of an homage to Homer’s Odyssey haunted him for being somehow incomplete, but all the songs seemed just right from the beginning. “Like they were meant to be.”
So, when you sit down in the Chapel Hall this week, and the good Reverend starts the projector, listen out for some local favorites in the musical soundtrack; even the name of our fair village is hidden in there, if you pay heed.
5*s – A must see for the whole family.