In this month's Sight & Sound, John Harkness calls the Coens 'sphinxes without riddles', an accusation coloured by unfair expectations. It's like chiding Joyce for not telling a proper story, or the Bee Gees for not having written Astral Weeks. A fact: Joel and Ethan Coen (right) make bite-sized, immaculately fashioned homages. Shards remain, for sure - the protracted murders of Blood Simple, the prison break-out in Raising Arizona. But these films are disposable delights, witty, wonderful footnotes. Go truffling for more and you're left dry.
It's possible that Harkness was duped into his reductio ad absurdum by Joel Coen's CV (cine-literate egghead, reputed predilection for Wittgenstein ). No wonder he was flummoxed. The Hudsucker Proxy evaporates as you troop out beneath the exit sign. You remember guffawing in there, and being wowed and wooed by the flashy visuals, and cocking an ear to keep up with Jennifer Jason Leigh's whip-cracking Stanwyck/Hepburn patter. The rest, though, fades. It's the first film this year to echo that childhood marriage of frustration and joy, when you left the darkness of the Odeon on an adult's arm, traipsing through the butter-smelling foyer with its fruity carpet, screwing up your face at the harsh light. And you were maddened at being unable to recall a single frame of what you'd just seen - it had become air - but you knew that it had been fantastic, and you'd go back for more, just to see if you could hold on to a piece next time.
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