The masterful Coen brothers are at it again with a totally unexpected, part funny, part devastating but all beautifully crafted Wild West-set anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
Joel and Ethan Coen have become known for their idiosyncratic approach to movie-making, bringing a particular brand of wit, irony, carefully crafted aesthetic and non-conventional storytelling in a long filmography of now-classics: Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), No Country for Old Men (2007), True Grit (2010) and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).
Their latest is no exception, presented as a cinematic retelling of a book of six stories and forming a kind of love letter to the Western genre while also playing upon its most stereotypical tropes. Greed, love, despair, death and violence are all explored in alternately humorously macabre and genuinely melancholic ways through meticulously drawn characters.
As ever, the cast are of the highest order, with Tim Blake Nelson opening as singing cowboy Buster Scruggs, James Franco as a bank robber, Liam Neeson and Harry Melling (Harry Potter) telling a dark tale of an impresario and quadriplegic artist on the road, Tom Waits as a tenacious digger for gold, Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck in an unexpectedly touching story of a couple who find each other on a wagon train, while the closing story, The Mortal Remains, is the most chilling, featuring Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson and Jonjo O’Neill on a stage coach to Fort Morgan.
We hit the red carpet at the movie’s London Film Festival gala to speak with the cast and creators, though the Coen brothers themselves were uninterested in giving interviews.
Tim Blake Nelson told us about playing Buster Scruggs and why he loves working with the Coen brothers.
Bill Heck explained the storyline of Billy Knapp and with Zoe Kazan as Alice Longabaugh and how he saw his character.
A very cold Zoe Kazan also stopped briefly to tell us about what she finds so inspiring about the Coen brothers.
Jonjo O’Neill talked us through the dark closing tale his character is involved in as a bounty hunter aboard a never-stopping stage-coach.
Harry Melling spoke to us about his strand of the story and his experience of making the film.
By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 13th October 2018.
Videos: Marta Starcyznowska
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is released in select cinemas on 9th November 2018 and on Netflix on 16th November 2018. Read our review here.
Watch the trailer for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs here: