(a film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

Martin Gardner once wrote a book about what he called the "Aha!- experience." That is the instant in problem solving when all the pieces of the puzzle fit together and everything makes sense. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE was an entire TV series designed to create "Aha!" experiences. In each episode the main characters knew exactly what they were doing, but until the end the viewer was confused. Then at the end everything fit together.

Don't look for that sort of scripting in the current Tom Cruise "Mission Impossible" series or at least look for it in the current "Ocean's 11" series, which seems to leave the viewer guessing until the end of the story.

The Coen Brothers' BLOOD SIMPLE is sort of the dual of TV's MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. It is a film about the "Huh?" experience. Through most of the convoluted plot, it is the viewer who knows what is going on and the characters keep finding out that they only *thought* they knew what was happening. With the exception of the moments when the plot twists, it is really easy to keep track of what is happening. Yet, like RASHOMON, each character has a different understanding of who is doing what to whom. The plot can just be described as slow chaos punctuated with moments of delicious confusion from the characters.

This is a film of very high production values which looks as if it was printed on cheap film stock. Somehow the film stock gives it a gritty feel of authenticity that a slick production would lack. There are some incredible camera shots in this film and it is amazing that they do not feel contrived. It is like reading Victor Hugo: the first time you read a paragraph, you are amazed at how well-written it is, and only secondarily you realize that it really did advance the plot. Scenes in this film are amazing in the same way.

One scene toward the end of the film is particularly haunting. We are in a dark room and someone is shooting holes in the wall from a well-lit room. The effect is one of columns of light sprouting out of a dark wall. The scene fits naturally into the plot, but still is an unforgettable image. The effect was used again in SILVERADO.

In some way I still do not understand, the cameraman is unobtrusively able to make the viewer notice props that will be important later. A prop will become important in the plot and the viewer finds himself thinking, "Yes, I noticed that prop five minutes ago, but it was in a corner of the screen and I thought noticing it was my idea."

I rate this a low +3 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2021 Mark R. Leeper