Cult Film: Barton Fink

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Cult Film: Barton Fink
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Brooks Museum says
Barton Fink is the Coen Brothers’ fifth film, written while experiencing difficulty with the script for Miller’s Crossing. The title character, a circa-1941 New York playwright, moves to Los Angeles to write film scripts. Fink (John Turturro) quickly realizes that beneath the pristine outer layer of Tinseltown lies a hellish underbelly.

While Fink’s character is modeled on playwright Clifford Odets, it’s the character of the heavy-drinking Southern scriptwriter W.P. Mayhew (played by John Mahoney), a loosely drawn caricature of William Faulkner, who steals the show. During his 1930s Hollywood stint, Faulkner worked on a screenplay for a wrestling film called Flesh, starring Wallace Beery—and in Barton Fink, Fink is at work on a script for a b-movie about wrestling that stars Beery.

Though Barton Fink did not do well in the box office, it won high critical acclaim, specifically at the Cannes Film Festival, for best film, best director and best performance by an actor. Barton Fink can not exactly be tied down to a certain genre, as is common in Coen Brothers films, but most consider it to be a postmodernist film.

Vincent Canby at the New York Times writes “Barton Fink might possibly be classified as a satire on the life of the mind. There is no doubt that it is about the perils of the mind for someone as impressionable as Barton Fink. Barton is a pious, prissy New York playwright of very funny, unredeemed humorlessness, someone who has dedicated himself to creating ‘a living theater of, about and for the Common Man.’”

Brooks Films presents this series of films written or inspired by southern author William Faulkner in celebration of the museum’s new Carroll Cloar Gallery, which opened in September. Born in the Delta, Cloar evolved into the most famous painter to emerge from this region. His hauntingly beautiful evocations of the American South draw upon family stories, photographs of ancestors, rural scenery, small town life, and memories of his childhood near Earle, Arkansas.

Directors: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen | USA | 1991 | 116 minutes

$9/$5 Brooks members and students with valid ID/Free with VIP Film Pass.
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By: Brooks Museum

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