Sunday, June 26, 2011

Movie Moments: #68

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

The story is a loose modern adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey.  The film contains a wealth of humour, American folk music and some serious acting talent.  If you’re not that fond of George Clooney, watch it for the music.  If you’re not into the music, watch it for George Clooney, John Goodman et al.  If you’re not into George or the music, watch it anyway for a good story well told.  

It is 1937 in Mississippi.  Three members of a chain gang, led by Ullyses Evertt McGill, escape to retrieve the $1.2m that Gill claims to have hidden from an armoured car heist.  Because the valley in which the money is hidden it is to be flooded, they have only four days to retrieve it.

Blind Seer:  You seek a great fortune, you three who are now in chains. You will find a fortune, though it will not be the one you seek. But first... first you must travel a long and difficult road, a road fraught with peril. Mm-hmm. You shall see thangs, wonderful to tell. You shall see a... a cow... on the roof of a cotton house, ha. And, oh, so many startlements. I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation.

Man of Constant Sorrow musical number with movie snippets:

The film's soundtrack became an unexpected smash hit, even more successful than the film.  The soundtrack:
·         resulted in a documentary film, three follow-up albums ("O Sister" and "O Sister 2") and two concert tours;
·         won Country Music Awards for Album of the Year and Single of the Year (for "Man of Constant Sorrow");
·         won five Grammys, including Album of the Year;
·         hit #1 on the Billboard album charts the week of March 15, 2002, 63 weeks after its release and over a year after the release of the film.

Although George Clooney practised singing for weeks, ultimately his singing parts were dubbed by Dan Tyminski of Union Station.

The title O Brother, Where Art Thou? is an allusion to another movie. In Preston Sturges' 1941 film Sullivan's Travels, the title character is a wealthy Hollywood filmmaker who (in the midst of the Depression) decides to make a film about the suffering of the "common people" in order to redeem himself from the usual commercial pap he has been producing. Drawing his inspiration from fictional a novel, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," written by "Sinclair Beckstein"-a clear allusion to the "realist" novels of Upton Sinclair and John Steinbeck-Sullivan sets off in hobo garb in order to experience firsthand some "common people" of his own. By a series of highly comic accidents, Sullivan eventually winds up on a prison chain gang in the South.

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