Friday, 31 December 2010

A Serious Man and the Cohen Brothers

The Coen brothers Joel and Nathan have created some interesting challenging, unique and sometimes funny works. A serious man is not funny. Well it depends on the individual sense of humour.

A polish Jew tells his wife that eh has been helped home by Reb Groshkover who he has invited in for the evening soup (stew), His wife, Dora, objects, as the man is dead. The man is therefore a ghost or some form of living dead. When he arrives the wife plunges and icepick in the chest of visitor.

Half century later we are in the USA Minnesota and the wife of Professor of Physics announces she wants a divorce so she can marry a widower neighbour.. She suggests it would be appropriate he moves out into a motel which he agrees.

Living in the family home is their son who owes money to a Hebrew classmate for the marijuana he has provided and he places the note in a transistor radio with ear piece which he takes to school and is then confiscated by the head teacher. His sister is obsessed with doing her hair and his uncle spends his time filling a notebook with a complex scientific theory which he claims will fuse together all natural laws. This we have a typical Cohen collection of human beings in contrast to Hollywood and media family portrayals.

The husband faces a faculty decision on whether his tenure is confirmed and this put in jeopardy following his decision to appropriate grade a Korean student who first leaves a substantial financial gift which is then denied when confronted by the Professor and they in turn threaten defamation and make complaint.

Things quickly go from bad to worse. He finds that his wife having persuaded him to leave the home and go into a motel, empties his bank accounts. His brother is then arrested for solicitation.

Our hero turns to his religion and seeks an audience with the senior rabbi who refuses contact with the outside world except to approve the bar Mitzvah which his son is due to take. The others he consult behave in negative, incomprehensible ways and are of no help. Then the situation appears to change. He and his wife’s lover are involved in car accidents at the same time but in different places. The lover dies and our hero pays for the funeral at the insistence of his wife. This is man unable to control any aspect of his destiny. The Bar Mitzvah appears to go well although the hero and the rest are unaware that the son has coped by taking cannabis. He gains entry to the senior rabbi who passes over the transistor radio with the missing note appearing to be confusing the son with his father. White at home he goes on the roof to sort out the TV aerial and sees a neighbour sunbathing in her yard naked. He begins a relationship with her. He is given the impression his job is safe. The boy’s teacher struggles to open the school shelter’s door as a cyclone approaches Then the hero receives a telephone call from his doctor after the result of an x ray have been checked.

The film is about he deception of appearances and the Cohen’s The last film note is that No Jews were harmed in the making of the film! You either love them or hate them.

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