Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Coens look for "True Grit," seriously

With "A Serious Man" gathering some equally serious critical momentum during an ongoing platform release, filmmaking brothers Joel (far left) and Ethan Coen admit to setting their sights on a surprising remake sometime down their extremely busy career roads. correspondent Ed Symkus reports that the unpredictable siblings will take on "True Grit," the film that earned (very) Big John Wayne his first and only Best Actor Oscar.
And, how will they make anyone forget "the Duke" in his rootin'-tootin' 1969 western? "Well, we managed to forget it," Ethan Coen answered with a rare twinkle during a recent press confab at the 34th annual Toronto International Film Festival.
Added Joel Coen: "It’s really not a very good movie. The Charles Portis novel is great, fantastic. I think (the original) is a pretty mediocre movie from a great book. So we’re gonna go and, who knows, fuck it up again, maybe."
Certainly that seems a highly unlikely proposition, especially since the Coens have a way of mastering almost everything they touch.
In fact, even their totally Yiddish prologue to "A Serious Man" brilliantly sets the stage for what, uh . . . well, brilliantly follows.
"We were reading a lot of (Isaac Bashevis) Singer, and he is from Poland," Joel Coen explained. "So, it’s probably more influenced by that Polish-Yiddish literary tradition. But, just getting the translation in that segment was a nightmare, in terms of all the different opinions and all the different Yiddishes.
"We don’t speak it ourselves," Ethan piped in, "and every single person we talked to said, 'This (translation) is bullshit. You got it wrong. This is horrible.' ”
"So," Joel continued, "we’d show it to someone else and say, 'Well, you do a translation.' Then we’d show it to the next guy, and he’d say, 'This is bullshit.'
"It was like that every time we asked someone to do a translation of the script. And finally, the one we used was translated by the younger actor (Allen Lewis Ricman) in the segment. We figured, “You’ve got to say it, so you translate it.” He’s a fluent Yiddish speaker, and that’s the translation we ended up going with.' "
"The actress in that scene (Elena Shmulenson) is actually his wife," Ethan Coen concluded. "and Fyvush Finkel – the Dybbuk – is his friend, and they all agreed, 'OK, this is fine, we’ll do this.' "
By the way, my review of "A Serious Man" is up now at Sun News, where you also can find my review of Chris Rock' s "Good Hair."

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