In 2007, the organizers of the Cannes Film Festival undertook an ambitious project to celebrate the festival’s 60th anniversary. Their plan was to contract world-class directors from around the world to create short, three-minute love letters to cinema in their own distinctive voice.
Joel and Ethan Coen, who were taking their 2007 feature NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN to that year’s festival, naturally were conscripted into the project, dubbed TO EACH HIS OWN CINEMA. The Coens’ contribution–“WORLD CINEMA”– manifested itself as an off-kilter sketch about a talkative cowboy (played by NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN’s Josh Brolin) unable to decide between two foreign films at his local cinema. He asks the ticket-taker (played by George Clooney’s producing partner Grant Heslov) for his opinion, takes the recommendation, and then after seeing the film, goes out of his way to let the ticket-tacker know he enjoyed the picture.
It may not look like a typical Coen picture– the visually unadorned, handheld cinematography by Steve Lubensky leaves substantial ambiguity as to whether it was originated on film or digital video– but the quirky characterization embodied by the two leads is a dead giveaway. Brolin seems to channel both his Llewelyn Moss persona from NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, as well as his then-upcoming portrayal of President George W. Bush for Oliver Stone. Heslov, who isn’t an actor per se, produced the Coens’ previous film INTOLERABLE CRUELTY (2003) and his presence further alludes to the Coens’ collaborations with Clooney.
At three minutes, WORLD CINEMA is the briefest of the Coens’ narrative works. I’d venture to guess that it is also their least-seen work. It’s a light, fluffy little number, and a far cry from the pitch-black western that the Coens were about to unleash upon the world.
TO EACH HIS OWN CINEMA: “WORLD CINEMA” is currently available via the Youtube stream embedded above.