In the trailer for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel and Ethan Coen retain their usual narrative aesthetic, albeit with a slight twist, for the popular streaming platform Netflix. After nearly 35 years of directing feature films intended for theatrical releases, the Coen brothers are embracing modern trends.
In 1984, Blood Simple marked the Coen brothers’ feature debut, starring their would-be long-time collaborator Frances McDormand (who is also Joel’s wife). By 1991, the filmmaking duo earned their first Oscar nominations for Barton Fink, a film that preceded 90s classics such as Fargo (1996) and The Big Lebowski (1998). Throughout the 21st century, the Coens have remained relevant by exploring various genres, all the while infusing their quirky narratives with unique protagonists, villains, and even anti-heroes that audiences can relate to. While recent films like Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) and Hail, Caesar! (2015) didn’t match the awards-season accolades of westerns like No Country for Old Men ( 2007) and True Grit (2010), the films suggested that the Coens’ style appeals to younger demographics. Now, they’re returning to the Western genre for their Netflix production.
Related: The Coen Brothers' Movies, Ranked
Today, Netflix released The Ballad of Buster Scruggs' first trailer, which is full of slick dialogue, oddball characters, and black humor. The clip immediately establishes the Western premise with a majestic landscape shot, followed by the appearance of James Franco’s “Cowboy,” surely a nod to the “Man with No Name” archetype ala Clint Eastwood.
By opening with a formalist approach, the trailer sets the tone for the Coens' stylized dialogue, delivered most effectively by a mustached gentleman who quips about how easily people are distracted and connect stories to themselves. From there, various characters are introduced, including the bombastic title character, played by Coen-regular Tim Blake Nelson. While the collective images don’t necessarily establish how the various characters are connected, or how Franco’s “Cowboy” ends up with a noose around his neck, the introductory commentary suggests that each individual will be “like us, but not us.”
Initially promoted as a Netflix limited series, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was announced as a six-part Western anthology film last July. While the Coens once again teamed up with Carter Burwell for the score, their usual cinematographer, Roger Deakins, was replaced with Bruno Delbonnel who is known for his warm color palette, and for filming the aforementioned Inside Llewyn Davis. Alongside Franco and Nelson, Zoe Kazan and musician Tom Waits have supporting roles in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
With Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma already gaining awards season momentum by winning top honors at the Venice Film Festival and getting a December 14 release date, it looks to be a big fall for Netflix as The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will premiere in November.
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) release date: Nov 16, 2018