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Barton Fink
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Barton Fink More at IMDbPro »

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172 out of 200 people found the following review useful:

Writer who doesn't want to see

Author: tarzana311 ( from Austin, Texas
28 August 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is my first time to comment on a film on this site. I have enjoyed reading y'all's comments. After 4 viewings, I found peace with the mysteries I saw in the film. Barton, though he talks a good show about wanting to write about "the common man", doesn't see anything around him as worthy of being a subject. He fears learning about the common man, or anything else outside his experience. His experience teems with material for a watchful writer, but Barton sees nothing. When the wallpaper peels, he doesn't look for what's underneath or an explanation, he feverishly tries to cover up what's "exposed" as fast as he can (uno metaphoro). I agree with all comments about Goodman presenting Barton with a "common man" right in his own room. He has a research subject to learn from and to use as a springboard to break through his "writer's block", but he can't see anything that "god" presents for him to use. And the Woman on the Beach. Interesting that he never sees her face. He can never really SEE her but seems drawn to her and fascinated by her. He is drawn to the fact that she is "unseeable". In the end he "sees" her and doesn't explore that possibility either. The Box? He never opens it. We assume what we want to assume, but Barton, who is in control (!) simply attaches to the box without ever "discovering" it. He is all show and no substance. I agree, his one hit (the play) may be all he has in him. He's a one-trick pony posing as a seeking writer, intent on revealing the inner "common man" but is petrified by fear, ignorance or what-you-will. Look at the film again with an eye to his inability to "see" what is clearly revealed to him. you may "see" what I mean! Cheers!

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184 out of 224 people found the following review useful:

You all got it wrong!! Why this is a masterpiece: (READ ON)

Author: mistagenki from San Francisco
10 July 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoiler Alert 98% of the above user comments have totally missed the idea of this movie, and yet some have gotten it exactly correct without even realizing it. Here is THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS MASTERPIECE MOVIE...

Those that stated that the first 2/3 of the movie is boring and then it starts to pick up when the action begins, have unwittingly seen the plot, and masterfully fulfilled its premise. See, Barton Fink is a boring, artsy, impassioned Jewish writer, that gets one lucky break, and is instantly summoned to write a movie that the execs are sure "will be a winner" (no pressure there, right Hollywood?). But since he is so much an "artist", he cannot lower himself to the level of writing a simple wrestling film, desiring instead to write witty stories about "the common man", films that "really mean something". Then he refuses to listen to common man stories, stuck instead on his own ideas of what that should be.

Well, OK, what is obvious here? Well the Coens for one, are Jewish WRITERS/ FILMMAKERS, who got one lucky break, "Blood Simple", and then were given the open door to make Hollywood films, are always branded as mere "artists", too idealistic for the majority of the masses (their movies are rarely fully appreciated or understood, and make only a small profit, but their genius high critic ratings keeps them afloat). So THEY ARE Barton Fink, quite literally and intentionally. It is THEIR personal tale, ensconced in a symbolic cloak.

Summary: Barton wants to write for the common man, and yet what the common man wants to see is this dumb "B"-rated wrestling flick, not some heartfelt idealistic piece about some friendly yokel. They want predictable mystery, unadulterated violence and blood, guns blazing, detectives crunching, and loud sex. As Barton stares at the image of his idealism (the beach picture), he longs for his ill conceived idealism to take form and materialize onto the paper. But of course it is a failure, because he sees himself as an "artist", not as a business man with epic visions.

Which is why finally, the mysterious Audrey (the real writer he is supposed to consult), who always helps Mayhew's stories out of a jam, becomes the catalyst for this story as well, by initiating the sex/horror/detective story as soon as she is asked to. Normal writers apparently are like either Fink or Mayhew, but she sees through to what makes for real-world successful writing (not some dorky contrived "common man" story), and she initiates the final action-filled finale immediately.

This is PURE GENIUS! "Adaptation" as one user here mentioned is like this film, because of the similarity in how the plot loops back in on itself. But this one is much more subtle, to the point where the "common man" would not even understand this movie, and thereby fulfill its message, that all people want are the action films that Hollywood dishes to us, just like the mogul states over and over, and we see delivered on the last third of the celluloid. In the end, Fink realizes his idealism, that what he really wanted is to get his artistic view rejected, so that he can maintain his idealistic (unrealistic) outlook, which is his true passion, the "fight" for self fulfillment. This is personified by the appearance of the girl on the beach, with Fink still not realizing what would be in the box, because he doesn't comprehend Hollywood thinking or action movies (or "mainstream" movies or plots). But he has achieved his goal, as has the movie for Joel and Ethan, as both being an incredibly well-thought and executed film, both an art flick, and an action piece with more perfectly executed symbolism than anyone since Wells.

Now you know why it won all the Cannes awards that year, and why these two brothers from St. Louis Park Minnesota are gods of the art film, while the contrasting Warchowski brothers were once gods of the "common man" film (the first Matrix at least). The Warchowski's even named the subtitle of the Matrix Reloaded as "The Burly Man", which if you look closely (zoom in), is the name of Barton Fink's mystery screenplay, thereby once again fulfilling the intention of this film to the fullest (that what common people want is delivered like clockwork in the Matrix), just like pure Bible prophecies.

Amen, brothers.

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143 out of 173 people found the following review useful:

I'll show you the life of the mind...

Author: ( from uk
28 March 2000

I am absolutely amazed at the fantastic taste of the imdb readership, having loved this film for years and always been told by people I'd told about it and persuaded to watch that it was no good, I finally find some other people out there who love it as much as me, posting (mostly) extremely positive comments...This is a fabulous film, dripping with a brooding, sticky atmosphere that draws you in to the clammy world of Barton Fink, sat in his hotel room listening to the creaking of the wallpaper as it dribbles moistly from the walls, searching for inspiration in his tacky painting and dusty typewriter...Perhaps it is a little dark for some tastes, but as black comedy goes this is the blackest and the most biting there is, the Hollywood system and New York theatrical snobbery lampooned with equal viciousness. Deep insight into the nature of the creative spirit, a plethora of fine performances bringing at first stereotypical characters to full life (despite the unreal, fable-like atmosphere created by the slimy, glistening colours reminiscent of the films of Jeunet&Caro...), and many moments of hilarity make this a perfect movie, one I would not hesitate in recommending to anyone despite the fairly high probability they will hate it. A lack of any underlying morality, an absence of absolutes of right and wrong, good and bad, give this film a unique feeling that it could go anywhere. The last twenty minutes are about the most powerful I have ever seen in anything, at the end of almost every scene I thought it could end there and be an amazing film, yet each further scene only added further depth and poignancy. The first time I saw it, it left me drained, mind spinning, hands shaking, barely able to reach for the remote to rewind it to watch it again...

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70 out of 79 people found the following review useful:

Another Coen Brothers Classic!!!

Author: RaiderJack from San Francisco CA USA
21 May 2007

I recently purchased "Barton Fink" along with "Miller's Crossinhg", another Coen Brothers gem.

Barton Fink quite simply is a writer who cannot see the forest for the trees. He is so taken with the fact that he is a writer that he can't write. He is so idealistic that he misses fantastic opportunities to become a writer for the ages because he wastes precious time proselytizing. John Goodman perfectly sums up everyone's frustration with Barton Fink when after a series of unfortunate occurrences, Barton asks him "Why me?" to which John's character answers "Because you don't LISTEN!" Set in 1930s Hollywood we follow the exploits of a one-hit wonder, Barton Fink, who has written a successful Broadway play and is summoned by the powers that be to Hollywood. After much cajoling to take the job from his agent, Barton arrives in Los Angeles determined to become the writer for the common man where he insists true stories live. The trouble with Barton, however, is he does not have time for the common man because he has so romanticized their lot as well as his particular quest in speaking for them.

Excellent performances from John Turturo, John Goodman, Judy Davis, John Polito (often overlooked, but his scenes ALWAYS become his!!) and the inimitable Tony Shaloub.

I have decided after a slew of Coen Brothers films I currently have in my collection, that any project these guys are involved with deserve more than passing scrutiny.

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92 out of 123 people found the following review useful:

Classic dark comedy spoofs Hollywood hacks, literati alike

Author: funkyfry from Oakland CA
2 August 2003

This is a satire which really eviscerates its main character, nebbish Barton Fink, a semi-successful, very Jewish New York playwright who comes to Hollywood to make his dreams come true, which in his case is definately not writing the next Wallace Beery wrestling picture. There are just too many funny things in this movie to mention them all, so I won't mention any. But this is a movie that is going to stand up to the test of time; it may be the Coen brothers' best movie, because it is both dead funny and dead serious.

Turturro gives the performance of a lifetime as Barton, and Goodman proved with this movie that he was a first class acting talent (what made the Coens think of him in this role, anyway? surely a mark of genius). Davis also shows herself off extremely well, in one of this underrated actresses finest roles.

There is, simply put, no better satire of Hollywood, and none that I can think of that so successfully manages to also spoof the pretentions of those who despise it.

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38 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

A different perspective

Author: drichards from Hotel Earle, California
14 November 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILER ALERT! If you have not seen the movie please do not read the following comments.

Others have commented about Fink's apparent "descent into Hell", led by the neighbor/devil. I found a different interpretation, revealed by the very last shot of the film. To me, it is fairly clear that he is "in Hell" so to speak, but it is very much a Hellish existence on Earth, and the fire is merely allegorical of the intense pressure for him to deliver, compounded by the stifling Summer heat in his hotel room. I believe that at the end, Barton is still hopelessly blocked, having not written anything beyond his opening paragraph. He didn't get laid, there were no murders, no police, no package, and his neighbor has no dark secret. Those were all part of Fink's fantasy/insanity, created out of the desperation to come up with ideas, as he continues to stare at the picture over his desk. I even have doubts about the visit to the studio executive's home.

In short, at the end of the film, I think he is in exactly the same situation as at the midpoint of the film, the last time we see him staring into the picture, waiting for inspiration.

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46 out of 60 people found the following review useful:

Memorable, disturbing, and very Coen-esque!

Author: Blair Campbell from Perth, Australia
30 May 1999

I'm still not entirely sure what to think of this film. One thing is sure, it won't be easy to forget. This movie is clearly the product of a writer who has struggled with their muse, and equally one who has a healthy mistrust of Hollywood - the sausage grinder. Although Hollywood has been critiqued in film before in similar ways, memorable scenes, clever dialogue, quality acting, and a surreal plot and setting, add together to make this an unusual and different film. Maybe another viewing might add a different dimension. This is by no means 'light entertainment' and it leaves plenty of questions unanswered. But on the whole, an intelligent movie, if something of an enigma. My vote 7/10

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39 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

Look upon me! I'll show you the life of the mind!

Author: lastliberal from United States
17 July 2007

The Coen brothers have come a long way from their start with an 8mm camera. They have written and produced some great homages to the film noir era of Hollywood, and this film is no exception.

First, is the great dialog written by the brothers. Great dialog is a feature of their films, and this one has some of the most memorable I have heard. You can almost turn off the visual and just listen and be enchanted and know you are listening to a Coen brothers film.

But turning off the visual would deprive you of the great cinematography of Roger Deakins. His can frame a scene to the point that you could pause the film and just soak in the texture and color and realism. It is almost as if every frame is a painting.

The Coen brothers also seem to get the best performances out of an actor that I have seen. John Goodman is brilliant in this film and he seems to do his best work for the Coens. John Turturro is captivating as the hack writer who talks about his love for the common man, but just really doesn't know the common man and really doesn't care about them. Michael Lerner was brilliant as the requisite man behind the desk that is the feature of 40's noir.

One doesn't always know what is in the Coen brothers minds. Is this a foretelling of the rise of Nazism, of intellectuals who really didn't understand the appeal of fascism to the common man, or a surreal portrait of someone who sells out. No matter what their intention, they make you think and return to see their films again and again.

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54 out of 86 people found the following review useful:

A masterpiece of surrealism

Author: Mort-31 from Vienna, Austria
31 October 2000

The Coen-movie I liked best was "Raising Arizona". But being realisic, I know that "Miller's Crossing" and "Barton Fink" were better. There is so much inside and behind this movie, it's impossible to refer to every single detail. John Turturro has never given a better performance than here, as arrogant, too ambitious author Barton Fink. John Goodman also plays his role for a lifetime. And of course, Michael Lerner was nominated for an Academy Award. The reason why he still is no star is that he didn't act in any other Coen-brothers-movie. It's a fact that with their direction actors reach their climax.

Some of my friends who saw this film disliked it because they didn't understand the plot. Well, this is not a movie for people who need instructions how to handle a film. You have to think, to guess what all the symbols mean, what the ending means. Whatever you'll guess it can't be completely wrong because a real masterpiece like this offers many possibilities for interpretation.

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30 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

Hollywood: A Metaphor for Hell

Author: Sickfrog from Norfolk, VA
14 August 1998

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This slow-paced journey of a writer being lured into a doomed life in the limbo-esqe state of California (synonymous with misery) takes it time developing and preparing itself for a dynamic execution in the end. John Turturro is brilliantly subdued as the tragic writer. Most of the most powerful emotions he conveys are not done through any words or even give -away facial expression. He finds a way to make all those emotions implied, so that you, the viewer, almost insert your own feelings of anguish and impotence into his role. Michael Lerner earned an Oscar nomination as an enthusiastic director, who is critically self-determined, though constantly shifting on what he is supposed to be determined about. John Mahoney, Judy Davis and Tony Shaloub also turn in solid, dependable performances. But above all the other actors, it is John Goodman who shines in a brilliantly conceived and brilliantly executed role. While I will not give away the secret behind his character, this is not a performance that any true film buff will want to miss. It is one of the most dynamic and powerful performance in recent memory. And so, you will not want to miss this, the Coen brothers most moody and tightest film, even beyond their other masterpiece, "Fargo."

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