|A scene from Joel and Ethan Coen's Blood Simple (1984)|
From 1981 to 1989, I was assistant producer and co-host of the radio show On the Arts at CJRT-FM in Toronto. With the late Tom Fulton, who was the show's prime host and producer, we did a half-hour interview program where we talked to artists from all fields. In 1994, after I had gone to CBC, I had an idea to collate an interview anthology from some of the more interesting discussions I'd had with guests from that period. Since they all took place during the Eighties, I thought I could edit the collection into an oral history of the decade from some of its most outspoken participants. The book was assembled from interview transcripts and organized thematically. I titled it Talking Out of Turn: Revisiting the '80s. With financial help from the Canada Council, I shaped the individual pieces into a number of pertinent themes relevant to the decade. By the time I began to contact publishers, though, the industry was starting to change. At one time, editorial controlled marketing. Now the reverse was taking place. Acquisition editors, who once responded to an interesting idea for a book, were soon following marketing divisions concerned with whether the person doing it was hot enough to sell it.
|Tom Fulton, host and producer of On the Arts.|
As mainstream movies became more predictable and packaged in the eighties, some filmmakers turned to the fringes. Not all of the work of independent directors though was worthy of being enshrined (any more than all of the Hollywood work earned for itself the right to be trashed). There were good and bad films in both camps. What I wanted to illustrate in the chapter Occupying the Margins: Re-Inventing Movies was the more idiosyncratic styles of people working in the business on both sides of the fence. They included screenwriter Robert Towne, film directors Bill Forsyth, Bob Swaim, James Toback, Mira Nair, Agnes Varda, the Hollywood mogul Samuel Z. Arkoff, and then-emerging sibling filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen.
When I sat down with the Coen Brothers in 1984, Blood Simple had just been released. Thirty years later, Joel and Ethan Coen have written, directed and produced more than 15 films together – including Raising Arizona (1987), Miller's Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991), Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), No Country for Old Men (2007), A Serious Man (2009), True Grit (2010), and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). With their latest feature Hail, Caesar! set to premiere in a couple of weeks, this conversation with the two filmmakers as they were making their directorial debut seems timely.
– Kevin Courrier.
Here is the full interview with Joel and Ethan Coen as it aired on CJRT-FM in 1984.
– Kevin Courrier is a freelance writer/broadcaster, film critic and author (Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa, Randy Newman's American Dreams, 33 1/3 Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, Artificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles Utopian Dream). Courrier teaches part-time film courses to seniors through the LIFE Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto and other venues. His forthcoming book is Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism.