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Barton Fink

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There is little satisfying critical literature on the Coen brothers’ 1991 film Barton Fink. Most viewers are inclined to think that this is because the film is a pretentious, meaningless piece of crap. And Barton Fink is surely the most widely detested film by the Coens. The fact that it swept the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Palme d’Or, Best Director, and Best Actor (John Turturro) can simply be chalked up to French perversity and anti-Americanism. These people think Jerry Lewis is a genius, after all. 

I don’t wish to discount the meaningless crap theory, but I think there is more to it. Another reason for the dearth of good commentary on Barton Fink is that the conclusions one reaches upon careful viewing are literally unspeakable in polite company, for Barton Fink is a profoundly anti-Semitic film.

The Coens wrote the script of Barton Fink — in which writer’s block is a prominent theme — while experiencing writer’s block on Miller’s Crossing, in which John Turturro plays the most loathsome Jewish villain since Shylock. Barton Fink was filmed immediately after the completion of Miller’s Crossing with Turturro in the title role as another Jewish villain.

And make no mistake, the character of Barton Fink really is a fink. He is not just a nebbish and a victim, he is primarily a villain, whose victimhood is both the just desserts for his villainy and perhaps a barrier to future crimes. Fink’s crime is hard to see, though, because he lives primarily in his head. He lives “the life of the mind.” Thus he commits a crime of the mind.

The pretentious and meaningless aspects of Barton Fink basically arise from the fact that the Coens are making an ersatz David Lynch film, which blends the folksy with the grotesque and supernatural. But it doesn’t work, because they are unwilling to make the necessary metaphysical commitments.

As Flannery O’Connor argues in her essay “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction,” the portrayal of the grotesque has metaphysical assumptions. The Enlightenment envisions a world in which evil and abnormality are progressively eliminated. But the artistic portrayal of the grotesque is equivalent to the assertion that evil and abnormality are metaphysical, that they are aspects of reality that can never be eliminated. Thus, as Thomas Mann says, the grotesque is “anti-bourgeois” — anti-progressive, anti-liberal, anti-enlightenment, and also anti-Marxist.

The Coens use the grotesque as a refutation of Fink’s Marxist progressivism. But it rings false, because one senses that they are unwilling to affirm the more traditional metaphysical alternative that the grotesque presupposes.

Barton Fink is set in 1941. We begin in New York, backstage in a Broadway theater, in the final moments of Bare Ruined Choirs, the new play by the up-and-coming Jewish-Marxist playwright Barton Fink. Fink’s character is loosely modeled on Clifford Odets, but the bits of dialogue are a hilarious send-up of Steinbeck.

The play is a smash, hailed as a “triumph of the common man.” At the celebration, however, Fink is ungracious, boorish, and self-absorbed, reeling off Marxist Popular Front clichés about “real success” being the creation of a “new living theater of and about and for the common man.”

Fink’s reviews attract the attention of Capitol Pictures, who offer him $1,000 per week to write for the movies. Fink’s agent urges him to cash in on his good press, assuring him that the common man will still be waiting for him, and adding prophetically that he might even find one or two of them in Hollywood.

Fink arrives in Hollywood and checks into a dilapidated Art Deco pile the Hotel Earle. With its putrescent palette of greens, mauves, and magentas, its endless empty corridors, its peeling wallpaper, and its grotesque staff, it is pure Lynch. Then Fink meets his new employer, Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner hilariously playing Louis B. Mayer and stealing every scene).

Lipnik seems to know nothing of Fink, but he is convinced that the “Barton Fink feeling” will be a hot commodity and assigns him to write a wrestling movie starring Wallace Beery. It seems a natural fit, given Fink’s pronouncements about “the common man.” But Barton Fink is a Jewish Marxist from New York. For him, the common man is just an abstraction. Naturally, he gets writer’s block.

As he frets in front of his typewriter, he hears laughter from next door. He calls the front desk to complain. The bellman relays the complaint, and the neighbor knocks on the door. Enter Charlie Meadows, traveling insurance salesman, an affable corn-fed Midwestern goy played by Midwestern goy John Goodman.

Their conversation is hilarious. Fink is totally self-absorbed and patronizing, explaining that he writes about “people like you — the average working stiff, the common man.” He mentions that people in New York (fellow Jewish Communists no doubt) are creating a new theater “based on the common man,” but adding that it must not “mean much to you.” Three times Charlie interjects that he could tell Barton some stories, and three times Barton ignores him, ranting on about “empty formalism” and denouncing WASPs and the British class system. Apparently “the life of the mind” precludes empathy for others, or even listening to what they have to say.

The next day, Fink seeks guidance from his director Ben Geisler (Tony Shaloub playing Irving Thalberg) and fellow writer W. P. Mayhew (John Mahoney hilariously playing William Faulkner and stealing every scene). Mayhew is a great Southern novelist who has become a raging alcoholic during his sojourn in the land of the Philistines. When Fink prattles on about writing coming from pain and the desire to help his fellow man, Mayhew replies that he just enjoys making things up.

Fink develops an attraction to Mayhew’s secretary and girlfriend Audrey, who offers to help him get over his writer’s block. When Audrey reveals that she has actually been ghost-writing Mayhew’s recent work, Fink is maniacal in celebrating the unmasking of another WASP hero as a fraud. Audrey chides him for lacking empathy and understanding, but Fink has no idea what she is talking about. Audrey then seduces Fink, and the sounds of their coupling travel the pipes to Charlie’s room.

Fink awakens in the morning to find that Audrey has been murdered in bed while he slept. He goes to Charlie who convinces him that he should not go to the police and offers to dispose of the body. Charlie then leaves town, after giving Barton a package for safekeeping. A few days later, two police detectives, Mastrinotti and Deutsch, come to question Fink. Audrey’s body has turned up without a head, and their suspect is Charlie Meadows, who is apparently Karl “Madman” Mundt, a serial killer. After the police leave, Fink’s writer’s block breaks and he completes the script.

Fink then celebrates the completion of the script at a USO dance. When a square-jawed blonde sailor tries to cut in, Fink begins to rant, “I’m a writer celebrating, you monsters [goyim]! I am a creator! This is where I serve the common man [pointing to his head]!” Jewish metaphysics makes a distinction between the uncreated creator (God), the created creator (man = the Jews), and uncreative creation, which presumably includes the goy monsters. Someone takes a swing at Fink, who falls to the floor and slithers away while the goyim fight among themselves.

When Fink returns to his hotel, the detectives are waiting for him. Mayhew has turned up dead and decapitated; they now know that Audrey was Fink’s friend; and then there is the huge bloodstain on Fink’s mattress. Fink is arrested as Mundt’s accomplice and cuffed to his bed frame.

The hotel becomes as hot as a sauna. Fink announces that Charlie has returned. The hallway is filled with flames. Charlie appears, screaming “I’ll show you the life of the mind!” and kills the detectives with shotgun blasts, saying “Heil Hitler” before dispatching Detective Deutsch.

Charlie then screams at a terrified Barton that “You don’t listen!” and that he is just “a tourist with a typewriter” barging into his world and telling him how to live. Fink naturally thinks the end is at hand and blubbers out an apology. His fury spent, Charlie frees Barton from the handcuffs and goes into his room nonchalantly, as if the building were not on fire.

Are the flames hellfire? Is it all a dream? Is it symbolism? I think it is just a meaningless Jewish jerk job.

Fink gathers up his script and flees the building.

A few days pass. Lipnick has read the script. Fink is summoned into his office, where he finds Lipnick dressed in the uniform of an army colonel. The commission is honorary, he mentions, arranged by Henry Morgenthau. The uniform had been run up by the costume department.

Lipnick hates the script. Fink was assigned to do a wrestling movie, and instead delivered “a fruity movie about suffering” — about a man wrestling with himself. Lipnick has fired Geisler, and he informs Fink that he will remain in Hollywood, writing scripts, but none of his scripts will be produced until he “grows up” and realizes the error of thinking that “the whole world revolves around whatever rattles inside that little kike head of yours.” Devastated, Fink then goes to the beach, where we are treated to some more pretentious symbolism. Then the movie ends.

Barton Fink portrays Jews in an entirely negative light. Fink is a self-absorbed, patronizing, hate-filled, Marxist elitist who talks about the common man, and talks at the common man, but never listens to him. Lipnick is a mercurial, megalomaniacal buffoon. The rest of us are just extras in their neurotic psychodramas. And the terrifying thing is that they have the power to make their dreams real. We are ruled by psychotics.

With the character of the Heil Hitlering Madman Mundt, are the Coens suggesting that anti-Semitism is a predictable reaction to Jewish behavior? Is National Socialism the comeuppance of Judeo-Bolshevism? Are the flames the “gas ovens” of Auschwitz?

The fact that Mundt is ultimately a big sentimental schmuck whose fury can be deflected simply with a tearful apology — sincere or not, we cannot know — takes on new meaning when viewed in light of the tears shed by Turturro’s Jewish villain in Miller’s Crossing, which is a movie about how Jews have hacked the Aryan mind — and how we can erect a firewall.

Why the lack of good commentary on Barton Fink? Because one of the unspoken rules of today’s society is that if you can’t say anything nice about the Jews, you can’t say anything at all. Perhaps, one day, it will be the law.


  1. Posted May 21, 2015 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this excellent review. “Barton Fink” has been one of my favorite Coen brothers films since I first saw it in the theater when it was new, and it’s definitely underappreciated. The one thing I would disagree about is the idea of the flames near the end being a “jerk job.” In many of the Coens’ films, there is always a Satanic figure (if not actually Satan himself) who represents the embodiment of an absolute, supernatural, and invariably Biblical evil – Smalls in “Raising Arizona” and Stokes in “O Brother,” for example. The ultimate example is Anton in “No Country for Old Men.” In “Barton Fink,” the Satan figure is Charlie, and I think the flames at the end are symbolic of the fact that Barton has been judged as evil and condemned to Hell, both literally and figuratively. Or it may be more accurate to see Charlie as a Luciferian figure, since even though he embodies evil, he is also the only character with the perceptiveness and the gumption to shatter Barton’s illusions and forces him to confront his true, awful nature. Typically there is a character in the Coens’ films who represents God as well – the unnamed narrator of “The Big Lebowski,” for example. In “Barton Fink” the God character is Lipnick. In fact I would say that the Coens’ portrayal of God is quite Jewish, in the sense of being very Old Testament, since Lipnick is portrayed as being almost as violent, unforgiving, and judgmental as Charlie – just like the vengeful, OT God. Many things support this: Barton even finds a parallel for his relationship with Lipnick when reading the OT, and Charlie repeatedly exclaims “Hell!” And I’ve always seen Lipnick’s exhortation to Barton, “We’re all expecting great things,” and then his demolition of Barton’s ego in the penultimate scene, to be the voice of God in the film.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted May 21, 2015 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      These are good points. Lipnick is an earthly representation of the big psycho in the sky.

  2. Peter Quint
    Posted May 21, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I am a big fan of the Coen brothers films because of their unrelenting criticism of Jewish culture and Jewish religion. The film “Barton Fink” is about jewish domination of Hollywood and how they used it to further their racial goals. Barton Fink is a “red baby” born in America (first generation), he is full of himself and like all Jewish intellectuals thinks he knows the Aryan mind and can authentically speak for us in his plays. We are introduced to two of his plays which have the same ending. The first play in the opening scene ends with, “We’ll be hearing from that guy again and I don’t mean just from post cards and letters.” Fink’s second play at the end of the movie has the same ending, “We’ll be hearing from that guy again and I don’t just mean from post cards and letters.” The Coen brothers do this to show us that this “red baby,” this socialist/communist, this “Fink” has a little to offer and is full of himself. Jack Lipnick, the Jewish movie producer admits in one of his rants that his parents immigrated from Minsk in Russia. This is the Coen brothers criticism of Jewish dominated Hollywood. Aryan directors and producers could not get away with this kind of movie, that is why I enjoy their films so much. The Coen brothers best criticism of Jewish culture and Jewish religion is “A Serious Man,” they portray Jews as alienated, degenerate misfits. The Coen brothers let us know what they think should be done to all rabbis in the opening segment of “A Serious Man,” — stab them through the heart! I think the Coen brothers greatest work is “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” a masterful analysis of what kind of people are produced in a capitalist, democratic society. The ennui, meaningless and boredom of contemporary life is poignant throughout the film. If I did not know that the Coen brothers were Jews, I would have sworn that this movie was written, produced and directed by Aryans. I love the ending in which Billy Bob Thornton states (about the afterlife), “Perhaps I will see my wife there and I will be able to tell her all the things for which there are no words in this life. (close paraphrase).” Kind of reminds me of Keats.

  3. Karen T
    Posted May 21, 2015 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much, I’ve have watched this movie about4 times. “You don’t listen” …honesty. But I still don’t understand the significance of the woman on the beach on the wall hanging and in the final scene. I’d appreciate any insight. By the way, the movie based on Carson McCullers Ballad of The Sad Café, same title, was expropriated in places, the chain gang for example , by the Coen Brothers ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou’.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted May 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      I think there is no significance of the woman on the beach. They just could not think of an ending.

      • Peter Quint
        Posted May 22, 2015 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        What I have never been able to figure out is whose head is in the box? I’ m assuming it’s a head.

      • Posted May 23, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        From the point of view of critical theory, nothing is meaningless in a text or a film, even if its authors/creators don’t know what the meaning is. I’ve always interpreted the woman on the beach as being symbolic of the failure of Barton’s idealism. When he sees the picture in his hotel room, she seems to become a sort of symbol of his ideal world, gazing out to sea at something he can’t identify, as if towards the world of pure art that Barton seems to dream about. When Barton actually sees the scene with his own eyes, however, a bird seems to die and plunge into the water (or perhaps is killing something, it’s hard to say) where she is looking, so I’ve always seen it as saying, once your ideal has been achieved, it will be something ugly rather than something beautiful. A bit like Brueghel’s famous “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.”

  4. L.Os
    Posted May 21, 2015 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    A slight offtop: I had the impression that “Wrestler” (by Arronofsky) is the wrestling movie that Fink was writing.

  5. Posted May 21, 2015 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Good review, Greg! This one’s not bad either, if I may say so myself:'-barton-fink/

    My favorite of all the Coen bros’ movies, and highly underrated.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted May 21, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Jeez Andy, I had not seen this. Good work, and interesting how we focus on a lot of the same scenes and details. Great minds and all. But still, there is a dearth of good mainstream criticism of this movie. Leave it to CC and TOO to get to the nub of the matter.

    • Peter Quint
      Posted May 22, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      I keep getting error 404, what is the name of the movie?

  6. Chris Gage
    Posted May 21, 2015 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    If this review/summary is accurate, this movie can’t possibly be anti-Semitic, or some kind of Jewish admission of guilt.

    “Barton Fink portrays Jews in an entirely negative light. Fink is a self-absorbed, patronizing, hate-filled, Marxist elitist who talks about the common man, and talks at the common man, but never listens to him. ”

    No, you see, you don’t get it. Jews don’t consider these traits to be negative at all. This is what they call chutzpah. You’re thinking White and interpreting the film as a White man. It was written by Jews, and you have to understand it from their perspective. Fink isn’t a villain, he’s a hero; more precisely, he’s the typical misunderstood “Jewish genius,” lost in a land of “dumb goyim.”

    Fink has writer’s block because he can’t write about the goyim. He can’t write about the goyim because the goy is a soulless animal. There’s nothing to write about. That’s the film’s message. The Cohens are saying that Jews are foolish to try and help such soulless creatures or write about their shallow, goyische experiences.

    What do goyim do? What they do in basically all Cohen brothers films: kill one another, fight one another, swear, behave foolishly, etc. How can Fink write about such inferior life forms? The Cohen’s attitude towards goyim can be summed up in a scene from their movie A Serious Man. After telling a long and ridiculous story about a Jewish dentist’s dealings with a goy patient, one Jew asks the storyteller, “What happened to the goy?” The storyteller responds, “Who gives a shit?”

    Most will pass this off as the Cohens taking a shot at both goyim and the Jews who hate them. This is incorrect. This is simply what the Cohens, and most Jews, think. Hollywood Jews don’t write anti-Semitic films.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted May 21, 2015 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      I disagree

      • Chris Gage
        Posted May 21, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        A Jew named Yuri Slezkine wrote a book called The Jewish Century which particularly focused on Bolshevik Russia. In the book he basically said that even though Jews slaughtered millions of Russians and Ukrainians, they were still good, because they were Jews, and Russians and Ukrainians were evil and backwards (never mind the plethora of Russian and Ukrainian literary, artistic, and scientific geniuses- and the complete LACK of Jewish geniuses- from that region and time period). I believe Kevin MacDonald did an extensive review of the book, which is basically just a bunch of vindictive Jewish triumphalism, NOT an admission of Jewish hostility or wrongdoing.

        When Jews kill, rape, murder, lie, etc. in movies, Whites may or may not see it as evil or wrong. For example, any scene in Inglorious Basterds when the Jews kill and torture Germans, some Whites may see it as morally reprehensible. Jews don’t. Jews love it. Jews such as the Coens COUNT on naive Whites to see portrayals of Jewish aggression and hostility as an admission of their evil, and many Whites fall into the trap, even awakened Whites like Trevor Lynch. However, they are not admissions of evil. It’s just chutzpah; a celebration of hatred and the Jewish will to annihilate and defile.

        Jews torture the world. They don’t think it’s wrong to do. It doesn’t cross their minds. Anything they do is justified, since it’s them doing it. When a Jew succeeds, it’s because the goy has recognized his soaring genius and moral superiority. When a Jew fails, it’s because the stupidity of goy, who can’t comprehend his soaring Jewish genius, and seeks to persecute him. He becomes a bitter outcast, like Barton Fink or any number of Jewish characters in Jewish movies.

        The only difference between the Coens and most Jewish filmmakers is that the Coens are completely brazen in their contempt for goyim. The don’t even pretend that their Jewish protagonists are helping the goy. They celebrate bringing chaos the goy world. Burn After Reading is a good example of this: all the characters are reprehensible idiots, except for one (who’s still kind of dim-witted) and gets brutally murdered at the end by a hatchet-wielding goy.

        I won’t go into other aspects of the film which are standard Jewish tropes, such as the attractive White “shikse” the Jew gets to sexually defile, the stuff about Hitler and the Shoah, or the White genius who turns out be a fraud; all of these are common in Jewish movies and TV shows. The Coen’s movies are notable for their complete lack of guilt and lack of empathy. Larry David is similar; these are Jews who celebrate (like Slezkine) bringing chaos to the goy world. Other critics have picked up on this. What they haven’t picked up on, however, is the racial and cultural angle.

        • Posted May 21, 2015 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

          If Jews are portrayed as good, righteous, and morally upstanding people , then you say, “There goes Jewish Hollywood again, whitewashing all the crimes of Jewdom and making Jews look all nice and wonderful.”

          But when a movie like this portrays Jews as hateful, self-righteous, cruel and ruthless, you say, “Oh, but this isn’t *truly* a Jew-critical movie, because JEWS (presumably like the Coen brothers) don’t think this is bad behavior at all! This just shows how Jews hate the goyim and how despicable they are…”

          In other words, when a movie made by Jews shows Jews in a positive light, you bitch about it, and when a movie made by Jews shows Jews in a negative light… you likewise bitch about it!

          This type of double-bind critique is disingenuous, because it allows you to have your cake and eat it too, quite without justification; it makes it so that no Jew-made movie can ever be praised, no matter its take on Jewry, because you’re just determined to frame it in such a way that will make the maker of the movie look bad, either because it whitewashes Jewish crimes or because in portraying Jewish crimes openly, it must (you insist) be REVELING in them, rather than condemning them… It’s analogous to those anti-whites who criticize whites if they “appropriate” from other cultures, yet also attack whites if they act “white.” They are damned whatever they do. Honest criticism– including honest anti-Semitic criticism– gives credit where it is due.

          • Greg Johnson
            Posted May 22, 2015 at 1:44 am | Permalink

            Nicely said.

          • Chris Gage
            Posted May 22, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

            Andy please re-read what I said here:

            The only difference between the Coens and most Jewish filmmakers is that the Coens are completely brazen in their contempt for goyim. The don’t even pretend that their Jewish protagonists are helping the goy.

            This is what separates the Coens from someone like Spielberg. Spielberg utilizes saccharine morality in his films, the Coens don’t a damn about morality. The Coens are more like Kubrick. What’s missing in Coen and Kubrick films are moral condemnations of wrongdoing, or even consequences of wrongdoing.

            One example is Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut: some alt righters think it’s Kubrick admitting that his tribe sees White women as sex toys. However, Kubrick tells the story in his typically theatrical, yet matter-of-fact way, like he’s saying, “So what?”

            I’m sure you’ve seen Jew Douglas Rushkoff’s hysterical rant about how Jews are a corrosive force in the world, and how that’s a good thing. That’s basically what these kinds of films are, and what their message is: “We’re fucking your shit up, goy. What are you going to do about it?”

            You’re thinking White, but in order to understand these films, you have to think from the perspective of a middle eastern tribe of nation-wreckers with a superiority complex, which they used to mask a deep-seated sense of inferiority and inadequacy.

            • Greg Johnson
              Posted May 22, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

              Sorry, I just don’t buy it. You are basically sound like the reductio ad absurdum of the paranoid style of anti-Semitism.

      • Lokuum
        Posted May 21, 2015 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        I sort of side with Chris. The Character played by John Goodman, representing the common man, is really a serial killer. The Jewish Hollywood Exec. becomes a goy warmonger, instead of just a greedy goy capitalist. Romantic love with a Shiksa nearly costs Barton his freedom. I see the fire as similar to the storm in, A Serious Man, an impending doom, which is always in the back of the Jewish mind, a holocaust.
        Barton Fink represents the Jewish experience in the early 20th century America. The Coen brothers are criticizing Barton Fink for his belief in becoming part of American society, by championing the working man. The Coen’s are pointing out over and over how futile this is, how ill suited Jews are for this.
        The word fink loosely means double-crosser. The Coens are saying he’s a fink to the Jewish community.

        • Chris Gage
          Posted May 21, 2015 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

          Yeah those are basically my views. I think we’d all be better off without subjecting ourselves to Jewish “entertainment.”

          I had a really long comment about Kubrick and Spielberg that ties into what I said about the Coens, but this probably isn’t the place for it.

          I’ve read a few movie reviews on this site and they frustrate me, because instead of the reviewers analyzing the film from its intended Jewish perspective, they see how it might appeal to Whites in some bizarre way.

          Again, I think it’s best to unplug from Hollywood, and this coming from someone who used to love going to the movies before I became Jew-wise.

          I don’t think all HW movies are actively harmful, but most are. European films are worse in many ways, with rampant miscegenation and Marxist propaganda that’s not even subtle.

          At the moment there’s nowhere to turn for great works of art in the cinematic medium, a medium that ironically we invented (Edison and the first filmmaking company in America) but was quickly hijacked by our enemies.

          That’s probably why there’s never been a White Akira Kurosawa. How can there be, when we have to answer to Jewish producers and financiers?

          • Lokuum
            Posted May 23, 2015 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

            Yeah those are basically my views. I think we’d all be better off without subjecting ourselves to Jewish “entertainment.”

            I like their movies. I like Kubrick. I like a lot of Jewish directors, but it’s just entertainment. And I do think it’s a mistake not to see they’re work as mostly from a Jewish perspective.

      • Greg Johnson
        Posted May 21, 2015 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        I think you can infer my reasons for disagreement from re-reading the original review.

  7. The Lime Reaper
    Posted May 21, 2015 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Barton Fink isn’t my favorite of theirs, but it’s a great movie. After reading this I went to imdb to count the number of bad movies they’ve made. The only one I found was Intolerable Cruelty (the only movie they they co-wrote with others). My take on the Coens is that they are the kind of jews that love and appreciate White culture, from Europe to America. From their beautiful compositions to the wonderful soundtracks they employ, they are firmly in the realm of classical art. I recall Robert Ebert once criticized them in his review of Miller’s Crossing that their taste in furniture was too good. With regard to their stories and use of Jewish characters, jews are nearly always painted in a bad light (making them self-hating jews I suppose). One might argue that they make many of their White protagonists out to be fools (Raising Arizona/Fargo/Hudsucker Proxy/Big Lebowski), but in the end their work represents the best that Western/European man can produce.

    • Chris Gage
      Posted May 21, 2015 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

      I disagree with basically everything you just said. Their Jewish characters are not portrayed negatively. The traits we see as negative, to them, are positive.

      But beyond that, their films are laden with exaggerated, cartoonish performances, over-the-top imagery, and a general sense of hysteria and neuroses. This is typical of Jewish filmmakers, whose films never have a sense of calm to them.

      Beautiful compositions? Maybe in No Country For Old Men, but that was mainly due to Roger Deakins, and the setting and atmosphere from the novel. I certainly don’t think their films are the best that Western man has to offer, as they are not Western filmmakers.

      I don’t think they’re untalented. I’ve laughed at a few of their scenes. NCFOM had some tense moments and good acting. But I don’t see the value in their films. Like with basically all Jewish films, I find them crass and neurotic.

  8. Gerard
    Posted May 22, 2015 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    If they ever remake Barton Fink, now that he is no longer leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband would be ideal in the title role.

  9. Peter Quint
    Posted May 22, 2015 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    When I discovered the movie, I replayed the confrontation between Charlie Meadows and Barton Fink several times. Meadows’ explanation for his actions (Because you don’t listen) and his bending of the bars on the bed moved me. The exertion on Charlie Meadows face, and his subsequent actions reminded me of someone doing a kind act out of their strength (the old Roman virtue) just because they could. Then Meadows walking away to his burning room had something noble about it. I also got the impression that Meadows became a serial killer because as an insurance salesmen he was keenly sensitive to his clients straitened circumstances; “I try to help these people.” Meadows said. Charlie Meadows was a “killer angel.” Ah Bartleby, ah the world!

  10. Chris Gage
    Posted May 22, 2015 at 7:55 pm | Permalink


    If you don’t buy it, fine, but I think my interpretation is accurate, given the message of most self-consciously Jewish films.

    But let’s take a film that actually is a condemnation of Jews: the 1940 film Jud Suss. In this film, a conniving Jew purchases a short-sighted German duke’s loyalty and brings the state of Wuttermburg to ruin.

    On top of that, Suss forces a German woman to have sex with him so that he may free her German husband, whom Suss had arrested and tortured. She later commits suicide due to the shame. Eventually Suss is brought to justice and hanged as he begs for his life.

    This is a far more accurate and honest depiction of how Jews behave in White nations, which is why it’s STILL banned in Germany and Austria, and I believe a couple other European countries. Did Germany and Austria ban Barton Fink or A Serious Man? No.

    A Jew could never make a movie like Jud Suss, where the Jew has the same basic attributes of a Coen brothers, Judd Apatow, or Larry David character, with the distinction that he’s the villain who is punished by the people he’s betrayed. A Jew could not write that film.

    The Coen Brother’s version of Judd Suss would be a dark comedy about a neurotic but intelligent Jew who brings a bumbling goy king to ruin, whose sexual affair with a dumb shikse leads to her comically killing herself, and ending with a bunch of irrational, satanic goyim ganging up on him and killing him in a really over-the-top way.

    See the difference? Films such Barton Fink and A Serious Man are not not anti-semitic parodies of Judaism, they are Jewish critiques of Judaism. Learn how to tell the difference. If you want an actual negative portrayal of Jews in a recent film, watch Drive, which is actually a pretty decent crime thriller.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted May 23, 2015 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      I will be curious to see your reaction to my review of Miller’s Crossing next week.

      The author of the original novel of Jud Suss was a Jew, by the way.

      You seem to exclude the possibility of self-critical Jews (what Jews call “self-haters”).

      • Chris Gage
        Posted May 24, 2015 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        I don’t exclude the possibility of self-critical Jews. In fact my last paragraph in that post affirmed the concept of Jewish self-criticism; the point is that Jewish criticism of Jews is not based on anti-Semitism, nor is it a criticism of the harm they cause.

        When the Coens make movies that poke fun at the inability of superior Jews to live among the stupid barbarian goyim, that’s still very much an example of The Culture of Critique and the hostility that Jews have for non-jews.

        I’m not sure how I can make this any clearer, nor am I sure what exactly your counter-arguments are.

  11. The Brahmin
    Posted May 23, 2015 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    ”…which is a movie about how Jews have hacked the Aryan mind — and how we can erect a firewall…”

    Jews hacked the Aryan mind a long time ago with the idea of Christianity as they ideologically prevailed over the ancient Graeco-Roman world.

    Wrote Marcus Eli Ravage – ”You resent us, but you cannot clearly say why….Your real quarrel with us is not that we have rejected Christianity but that we have imposed it upon you!”

    Truer words have not been spoken.

    And there is no firewall that the Aryans have been able to erect so far. The Judaization programme marches on with a neo-conned America as its standard bearer.

    • Lokuum
      Posted May 23, 2015 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

      Wrote Marcus Eli Ravage – ”You resent us, but you cannot clearly say why….Your real quarrel with us is not that we have rejected Christianity but that we have imposed it upon you!”

      The concept is can be traced to Nietzsche’s Anti Christ.

  12. Posted May 27, 2015 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Seems to be a most popular review, Trevor!

    BF is one of my favorite Coen films, but my reading of it was a bit different from what is recounted here. I took it as a subtle, inside-joke, parody of bad historical drama, where there are just too many anachronisms, and the mise en sceneis powered mainly by funny old clothes and cars (cars that are invariably spanking clean and freshly waxed!).

    A few examples of the deliberately bad history: Wrestling pictures, and anything with Wallace Beery, were typical of the early 30s, not early 40s. William Faulkner, who actually did write the wrestling picture that was the inspiration for the Coens’ plot device, did so in 1932. Clifford Odets’s social dramas in the Group Theatre belong mainly to the 1935-37 era, not 1940. (And incidentally… Odets himself was a sympathetic guy who died too young; this is as wrongheaded a picture of Odets as the Coens could invent. He was better-looking than John Turturro and not so rude, and he wrote the snappiest dialogue in the business — Sweet Smell of Success and The Big Knife for example, the latter a Hollywood Sturm und Drang containing an early, more fully realized edition of Jack Lipnick.)

    The nominal plot of Barton Fink is intentionally minimal and vapid, just enough for the auteurs to hang their historical in-jokes upon. The actual Hotel Earle was an old hotel in Greenwich Village (now the Washington Square Hotel) where beatniks and folkies would stay (e.g., Bob Dylan). Karl Mundt was a conservative anti-Communist Representative and Senator who served on HUAC and the Hiss investigations (and like most people was casually accused of anti-Semitism). Henry Morgenthau, who got the Treasury appointment that was supposed to go to Joe Kennedy, is of course associated with the Morgenthau Plan, the proposal to dismember and starve postwar Germany. But unlike Kennedy is not known to have hobnobbed with movie moguls.

    But the big joke is about movie anachronisms, not being able to distinguish between 1931 and 1941. An example of another historical film about LA where the mistakes are more subtle, and generally unintended, is Chinatown. I strongly suspect its annoying anachronisms reverberated with the Coens. Chinatown is a great drama, but it never really makes you feel you’re in 1937, even though it gives you headlines about the racehorse Seabiscuit, and a soundtrack with Bunny Berigan singing ‘I can’t get started with you.’

    The story of William Mulholland and the Owens Valley water really happened 25-30 years earlier, so the LA that Jake Gittes drives around in—the noirish LA we see in James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler novels and scripts—is the post-Mulholland LA. As though to make up for this disjuncture, the director and production designer keep striving for an early-30s feel (lots of fedoras; a wise-cracking detective with slick middle-parted hair) but then we keep being fed visuals of an expansive, streetcar-free early-1970s LA, and pop-culture references that say we’re near the eve of World War Two. If this is really 1937 LA, shouldn’t it look more like Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce (made in 1943-45 but set a few years earlier)?

    I imagine the Coens watched Chinatown for the 47th time, looked at each other, and said, “Let’s make an old-time LA film and get all the details just a little more wrong.”

  13. R_Moreland
    Posted May 28, 2015 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    You inspired me to dig out my copy of Barton Fink and watch it again. Some thoughts…

    I first saw Barton Fink long after it was released (in 1991) and viewed it in light of two other movies from the 1990s–The Matrix and Fight Club (both 1999). All three involved protagonists who entered an alternative noirish world on an anti-quest; i.e., seeking to break through the fraud of society but finding the reality a little too much for sanity. Barton Fink becomes part of the Hollywood he initially despises (literally walking into the “picture” in the final scene on the beach). Mr. Anderson/Neo discovers the real world is a sunless wasteland and his putative superpowers exist only in the virtual world of The Matrix (a shared un-consensual hallucination if there ever was one); and “Jack” discovers he has been fighting his doppelganger (and by all rights should be in a padded cell, though the movie might ask what is the difference between that and the world against which he fights).

    All three movies have unreliable narrators. Jack, obviously, in Fight Club. Neo, well, how do we know that the world we see of “Zion” outside of The Matrix is the real real world and not just another level of an elaborate computer game? His guide is Morpheus (the god of dreams and a shapeshifter), for heaven’s sake. (The potential unreality of the world of “Zion” has been a hot topic for Matrix fans for years.)

    As for Barton Fink: we are seeing Hollywood from Barton’s point of view in full surreal technicolor, starting with the entry point to Writer’s Hell, the Hotel Earle. Nothing can be taken at face value. The names of the two cops (Mastrionotti and Deutsch) evoke Italian Fascism and German National Socialism and sound more like monikers Barton sticks on figures of authority (“all cops are Nazis”). Interestingly enough, in the apocalyptic confrontation with Charlie, Deutsch runs while Mastrionotti stands his ground–what can one make of that?

    Then there’s the supplication scene at Lipnick’s mansion–the fantasy of a writer who couldn’t meet a deadline? Audrey’s claim she wrote W.P. Mayhew’s novels–Barton as the jealous newcomer putting putting down a veteran writer as a plagiarist and then stealing his girlfriend-muse? The item in the package that Charlie gives him for safekeeping? Perhaps it is the key to Barton getting “a head” in Hollywood (ahem).

    For that matter, how do we know that Charlie really murdered Audrey? The cops say so, but they also say that Barton is the “brains” of the outfit (a reference to the “life of the mind?”). Note that in response to seeing Audrey’s corpse, Charlie goes into the bathroom and vomits—an odd reaction from a supposed killer. As far as we know, Barton is the mad slasher and is setting up Charlie!

    As with The Matrix and Fight Club, the environment is the illusion, a Philip K. Dick “Zebra” effect, the stage for that old Gnostic struggle. In this way, Barton Fink carries on from Touch of Evil in terms of protagonists crossing borders from reality to illusion; villains and innocents shapeshipping into each other; and even in the corpulent figures of Captain Quinlan and Charlie Meadows representing worldly wisdom who provide the truth if only the hero could keep his mouth shut and listen.

    You can also look at The Truman Show (1998) and eXistenZ (1999) for similar themes. There just may have been something going on in Hollywood in the 1990s where films were sending the message: Open your eyes and see the real world before you are trapped by the Spectacle!

  14. Petronius
    Posted May 30, 2015 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    I thought the hellish flames scene is just terrific to look at at and don’t waste my time about thinking of “symbolism” etc. I just enjoy.

    The target of the movie is definitely a certain type of Jewish character – and Lipnick is the no less nasty”capitalist” complementary type to the commie intellectual. However there is a certain twist, as Mundt/Meadows is a sort of composite character seen through the lens of Jewish fear and paranoia: The Aryan man who is a little less smart, less brainy than the Jews, but has a superior vitality, can be cordial and nice, but can turn into a Nazi werewolf or a pogrom killer any time etc… The same sentiment is expressed in “A Serious Man” with Gopnick’s goy neighbour, a redneckish guy that likes outdoor hunting etc. and has a vaguely threatening aura about him… I think these figures comically and consciously reflect and parody Jewish resentments and fear of the Goyim. I also think that Deutsch and Mastrionotti are deliberate allusions to the Axis powers, and thus also reflections of Fink’s paranoia.

    And yeah, it is stunning to see such a movie in the wide open space of the mainstream. Maybe the Lynchian settings helped cover up and obscure the traces.

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