CS Interview: The Russo Bros. Talk Coen Bros. & Star Wars
ComingSoon.net had the opportunity to speak with Joe and Anthony Russo about their weekly series Russo Bros. Pizza Film School, specifically about their love for the Coen Brothers after hosting No Country for Old Men star Josh Brolin for Episode 5, in addition to their views on Star Wars following Episode 4 which featured Mark Hamill and the group discussing The Empire Strikes Back.
ComingSoon.net: You guys had a great conversation with Josh about No Country, and you’re clearly big fans of the Coens. I want to know, what do you think of the idea of Blood Simple, Fargo, and No Country as a kind of informal trilogy? Because you talk about the importance of tone.
CS: Yeah, you talk about the importance of tone. And to me, those three films have a very specific tone and subject matter amid the Coen’s very eclectic filmography.
Anthony: No question. I think they are. And I think that they, like jazz artists, the Coens will do riffs on similar themes or similar tones. And you can sort of see it throughout their career. Sometimes they will do something, you know, just radically outside of their canon, like when O, Brother came out, but you could still find the roots to it in Raising Arizona. So I do think that those films are all a variation on the same tone and the same theme.
CS: Yeah. And the Coens, some of their movies really embrace nihilism, like Barton Fink or Burn After Reading or A Man Who Wasn’t There or No Country. But then, they make other movies that feel more moralistic, like Serious Man or Fargo. Do you think the Coens are truly nihilistic, or is that just a tool that they use sometimes?
Anthony: I have to believe —
Joe: Here’s the thing, their entire canon is imbued with nihilism in some way or another. But they are inherently existential individuals, right? That’s how they perceive the world. But they have a sense of humor about it, which is amazing, right? It’s Pinter-esque in that regard, right, or it’s Beckett. They have a sense of humor about their existentialism, so that’s why we love them so much, because I think again, growing up in Cleveland, for the hardnosed town where we came from that went bankrupt and industrial machine collapse during our youth. And so, we have a very existential view on life as well. And I think it’s why we gravitate towards the Coens so much. I think it’s hard to take that existential philosophy without a sense of humor, which would make their movies very difficult to watch if they didn’t have any, even though Country is devious in its execution. I mean, there are lots of witty moments in that film that are equally entertaining as they are depressing, you know?
CS: But and then in terms of your Empire Strikes Back episode, it brought up something that has always kind of bugged me about Star Wars, which is that I feel like in the prequels, sort of the choice that Anakin has to make, where he’s choosing between the Jedi and saving the woman he loves, it’s a compelling choice. It’s a wrenching choice. But in both the original trilogy and the new trilogy that just came out, I feel like Luke and Rey, they’re basically being offered a power grab. Rule the universe with me. And it’s pretty anathema to both of their characters. There’s never really a feeling like these guys are actually going to go for that. And I wanted to get your take on that. Would you have done that differently?
Anthony: Well —
Joe: I mean I think being such Star Wars fanatics, we would’ve probably focused on the Luke Skywalker story. And so, to me, there was the potential for three movies focusing on that arc coming to completion. But different choices you can make. I think you know, the fact that Star Wars is so important to us growing up, we got to make our Star Wars empire in Infinity War and Endgame. That was really our expression of what those commercial films meant to us as children and what we took away from them and the patterns of narrative structure that were so profound to us. We were able to replicate those patterns in those movies. So I think we speak to those films rather than the Star Wars films.
Anthony: I was going to say, you make a very good point about Luke and Rey. That’s a really good point in a sense that you don’t really think — they don’t seem very likely to make that choice, but it just reminds me of how similar our enjoyment of these movies is to something like opera in the sense that there can be these crude sort of narrative beats that maybe don’t play in a very subtle or sophisticated way, but there’s something about their resonance and there’s something about the way the rest of the cinema surrounds that moment and then the music and the iconography and the drama of it all that somehow creates emotion and sort of excitement and thrill and danger and peril. It’s just a reminder to me when you’re pointing your finger at something that seems weak or fit, at like how much the other elements, that sort of cinematic experience perceived is to what we walk away from a movie with, you know?
You can watch every episode of Russo Bros. Pizza Film School on their YouTube channel here!
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)