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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

This anthology of a half-dozen Western tales is a six-shooting delight from the Coen brothers.

Dir-Scr Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Prod Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle, Robert Graf
With Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck
USA
2018
132min
UK Distribution Netflix

If you want to fathom the bottomless well that is the Coens’ imagination, look no further. As storytelling goes, this is wildly idiosyncratic, undeniably hilarious and often touchingly melancholic – a cinema-brio study of the American West. Every delectable chapter presents a different story from the wild frontier, with tone and style perfectly calibrated for each tale. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs finds Tim Blake Nelson playing a sharp-shooting songster. In Near Algodones, James Franco’s wannabe bank robber gets his due and then some. And just a little bit more for good measure. Lugubrious dark humour pervades the Liam Neeson starrer Meal Ticket, a gothic tale about two weary travelling performers. Tom Waits mines a rich seam of humour in All Gold Canyon, while Zoe Kazan finds an unexpected promise of love, along with a dose of life’s cruel irony, on a wagon train across the prairies in The Gal Who Got Rattled. Finally, ghostly laughs haunt The Mortal Remains as Tyne Daly rains judgment upon a motley crew of strangers undertaking a final carriage ride. Exquisitely shot by Bruno Delbonnel and intricately designed by Jess Gonchor (with art department contributing stunning colour plate intertitles that introduce each sequence), this is one for true connoisseurs. Bedtime stories for cinema lovers.

Tricia Tuttle

American Express

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