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Watch: Critic Adam Nayman Discusses the Circularity of the Coen Brothers’ Films

The critic Adam Nayman has a new book out, with the self-explanatory title The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together. It’s one of those large Abrams doorstops, like Matt Zoller Seitz’s books on Wes Anderson and Oliver Stone — filled with glossy, well-chosen pictures as well as thoughtful, eloquent analysis that more than justifies their literal heavy-osity. Nayman has now taken part in a new video for TIFF, where he focuses in on one of the themes running throughout his film-by-film essays: the notion of circularity in the films of Joel and Ethan Coen.

Nayman starts with imagery, namely the recurrence of circular objects: ceiling fans, old-timey men’s hats, clocks, the flipped quarter of No Country for Old Men, the tumbleweed of The Big Lebowski, the Hula Hoop of The Hudsucker Proxy, the spinning hubcap that becomes a UFO in The Man Who Wasn’t There. Nayman argues that circularity is both a design principle and a philosophical one as well. There are the structural loops of Hudsucker and Inside Llewyn Davis, and the mirroring of Miller’s Crossing, where the same general scenes play out twice — “different but the same,” as per words written in the book of their latest film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. They keep the brothers focused, but they also betray an anxiety about the future, with characters often trapped in the present, worried that there is no future — at least not for them.

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