Published at: Dec. 2, 2000, 4:57 a.m. CST by headgeek
Perfect cinema is a very rare thing. And the Coen Brothers are a very lucky pair because with MILLER’S CROSSING, they made… PERFECT CINEMA.
The most shocking thing though is how it went COMPLETELY unrecognized for Academy Awards, Golden Globes… etc. This was the year of DANCES WITH WOLVES, GOODFELLAS, GHOST, AWAKENINGS and GODFATHER III. The only film in the list that even deserves to vaguely be mentioned within the same paragraph with the Coen’s film is GOODFELLAS… but personally, I feel MILLER’S CROSSING is in an entirely different league.
Tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse perfection was unleashed on that screen I so love. MILLER’S CROSSING is a breathless film… an experience where as every line comes you are left in awe… throwaway lines that would be featured tag lines for other features… bristling with wit… shot with a perfect eye… music placed perfectly…
As I sat there tonight, after the DANNY BOY sequence, my cheeks were wet… not because a character I loved had suffered… not because of a poignant moment of associative experience… BUT because at that moment, with that scene… PERFECTION.
That same perfection I feel in CASABLANCA when the French Anthem is sung. That moment where Gene Kelly swings around the lamp post. Flynn and Rathbone as they duel in Technicolor throwing shadows upon that castle wall. Kong fighting the T-Rex. Indiana Jones and the trucks. Robert Shaw and the story of the Indianapolis. Fred and Ginger. Cagney and Ruby Keeler in Footlight Parade. Dick Powell waking up groggy in MURDER MY SWEET… Stallone’s run ending atop those bloody steps. You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet. Jason and those blasted Skeletons. Max driving that tanker. Teardrops in the Rain. You know the moments for you…
Albert Finney has been transformed into an immortal with that song… that stogie… that Thompson… beneath that bed… leaping out the window… sigh, it is just PERFECT.
And as I sat there… excited, thrilled… Seeing a scene I’ve beheld numerous times… I felt my hands begin to clap, then my ears heard others… then came the cheers as I felt myself joining.
That audience recognizing and acknowledging perfection. Behind me on row three, I could feel the awe upon Quint and the Fair Spanish Lady. They were lucky enough to be seeing the film for their first time. Youth, and the joy of discovery.
Moments like these are why I find myself in theaters. The sheer exhilaration.
Walking out of MILLER’S CROSSING tonight I didn’t feel just pleased, I felt humbled. The level of writing is awe inspiring. And as we hit the lobby it was full of others talking to one another, and as I was headed to the head, the Fair Spanish Lady looks at me and asks, "How do you even start to make a movie that perfect?" Indeed.
Ya know this is one of those movies that quite honestly points out why AWARDS are wrong. You can’t give an award to the best film of a year, the year it comes out. You have to do it with distance.
Right now, where does DANCES WITH WOLVES or GHOST or AWAKENINGS or GODFATHER III or GOODFELLAS stand with you? Now watch MILLER’S CROSSING. Not one nomination? Heh. Right.
The Coen Brothers are my most treasured film artists working today. They embody the very joy of cinema that I love. Perfect writing. Perfect images. Perfect sound. And it is all put together so you don’t focus on any one of them… you see it all. And at the end of the journey they take me on, I’m invigorated.
Joel… Ethan… Bless you. I can’t wait to see everything you make for the duration of your lives. They provide that which theaters need to thrive. FILM in all its entertaining, thrilling and emotional bliss. God I love MILLER’S CROSSING.
"If I'd known we were gonna cast our feelings into words, I'd've memorized the Song of Solomon."
You tell em Tom!
Alright... ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: I've seen a couple of the blind below claim that MILLER'S CROSSING is without soul... And I've noticed that noone is defending the film against these handicapped folk... Perhaps it is because many of the lovers of MILLER'S CROSSING figure that these folks are trolls, or that in defining what a soul in a film is... is beyond their ability for tooling sentences. I will valiantly attempt to shoot this criticism down.
First off, this 'MISSING SOUL' complaint is the very same comment we hear from a few while watching STANLEY KUBRICK film. Again I disagree.
In CLOCKWORK ORANGE... Alex is the soul of the film. An angry and disruptive spirit. But at the end when you take away his capacity for his pleasures... this evil monster is now a limp vessel. Sure he was a horribly flawed human, but now he is even less. Forbidden the thoughts of carnal pleasure... gone the feelings of joy that came with his sadism. Now he just wanders about. In THE SHINING... no soul? No way. Nicholson's entire descent into madness.. Shelley's frightened desperate protecting of her son... Mr Kick The Can's talk with Danny?
The soul in Kubrick's film is there... you just have to watch the film with your eyes wide open. The actors and characters are not emotionally wrought beings... they do not wear their thoughts on their sleeves. They are internalized beings. People that are private and do not make a showcase of themselves.
Alright, understood... I have yet to address the alleged missing soul of MILLER'S CROSSING, but I had to warm up... ok?
MILLER'S CROSSING has a complete and large soul. The film is... at its heart about Friendship and the respect friends give when that relationship has come to an end.
The film is about Tom and Leo. Everything else in the film emanates from this friendship. How do I know? Watch the beginning of the film... Leo tries to help Tom out of his debt, but Tom does not want to be beholden to Leo... not out of fear... but because their friendship isn't based on what the other can do for each other, but out of a mutual respect. Listen to the dialogue about trading BODY BLOWS... Leo says he can trade body blows with anyone in the city except Tom.... and that is because when coming to blows with Tom, he would lose even if he won. This is the price of friendship.
When Tom admits to the affair he's been having with Verna... he knows that at that moment he has ended the greatest friendship he has ever known. Even if they were to reconcile, he realizes that he has crossed the street in a friendship that you never cross. He's lost his friend's trust forever. He could pick up and leave, but he still loves his friend... sees him in danger. He must help his friend one last time... And then he will have to leave. He does this not out of debt... not because Leo will reward him... not because it will personally help him... But because his friend needed help... and even if their friendship was over... the feelings he has for Leo are not. He must leave with everything on an even plane... Like with free masons, they must part on the square.
There is more honest soul in this relationship and the entire purpose of this film than I dare say any film any of you can think of. The goodbye gift of a life long friendship come to an end. And if you can't see that, then the soul you see missing is your own.