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Adaptation within Industrial Contexts: The Coen Brothers Post-2000

STUBBS, Andrew (2016) Adaptation within Industrial Contexts: The Coen Brothers Post-2000. In: Journeys Across Media 2016 Conference, Reading University.

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My paper takes the post-2000s work of the Coen Brothers to analyse adaptation within industrial contexts. Beginning in the early 2000s, with Intolerable Cruelty (2003) and The Ladykillers (2004), the Coens were seen by the popular press to be adopting new working practices whereby – for the first time – the Brothers were directing films based on other people’s original sources. As a result, the Coens were perceived to be engaging in standard Hollywood practices, including the ‘recycling’ of content leading to ‘cycles’ like remakes, and were scrutinised for working as ‘directors-for-hire’, leading multiple commentators to question the Coens’ ‘independent’ status.
After Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, however, the Coens would begin a collaboration with producer Scott Rudin, including work on two direct adaptations No Country for Old Men (2007) and True Grit (2010). No Country, in particular, was regarded by critics as ‘a return to form’, then after the release of True Grit one reviewer would state that the Coens ‘are probably the greatest literary adapters we have at the moment’ (Simon, 21/12/2010:C1). No Country and True Grit were received much more fondly by critics, with attention and praise especially directed towards what was perceived as a natural and creative pairing between the Coens and the authors of the original novels, Cormac McCarthy and Charles Portis, respectively.
My paper, however, scrutinises critical notions that the Coens were ‘going mainstream’ with their work on Intolerable Cruelty, by tracing their practice of adaptation back to before their debut film, Blood Simple (1985). Conversely, my paper assesses No Country’s economic, production, and distribution backgrounds to challenge notions of the work as ‘art’, which rely on suggestions that the film was in some way removed from the industrial practices with which Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers were implicated.
In order to conduct the investigation, I analyse extra-textual discourses including promotional materials, critical responses, and statements by industry practitioners. I consider how and why film adaptations are promoted and received as art or commercial industry practice, and, in so doing, complicate simple binary notions of creativity vs commerciality. By focusing on the Coens as ‘independent’ filmmakers, and their collaboration with producers Brian Grazer on Intolerable Cruelty and Rudin on No Country and True Grit, my paper investigates the implications of understanding adaptation within industrial contexts, and analyses the effect that this can have on notions surrounding authorship of the text.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Faculty: School of Computing and Digital Technologies > Film, Media and Journalism
Event Title: Journeys Across Media 2016 Conference
Event Location: Reading University
Depositing User: Andrew STUBBS
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2019 16:05
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:54

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