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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The eccentric retelling of Homer's Odyssey is set in the depression-era Deep South as the Coen Brothers make O Brother, Where Art Thou? a colorful adventurous fable buoyed with plenty of harmonious blue grass riffs.

Though the seminal Greek epic is the template for this travelogue in Old Mississippi, its name comes from the Sturges classic Sullivan's Travels, where a director travels the rails to make an insightful comedy about the human condition.  The collaborative writing siblings with Joel in usual helming role and Ethan producing this escape yarn is shot in burnished colors adding fun to a movie in tune with its performers and music.

In some ways akin to Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock set during the same time period the Coens meld a fairy tale quality into the road picture while Robbins charged a New York theater production with the volatile political climate during the depression.  Like Cradle, O Brother, Where Art Thou? has the services of John Turturro's maladjusted Pete who hooks up with two other criminals, George Clooney's Everett Ulysses McGill and delightfully amusing Time Blake Nelson as Delmar.

With Everett Ulysses leaving the hard life of a sentenced man to search for one point two million dollars he buried before being put away, O Brother, Where Art Thou? might be a mythological variation of Three Kings.  A large river baptism sets things for an excursion as the wanders pick up a young black musician (Chris Thomas King).  An amusing scene has them recording a song as Soggy Bottom Boys which happens to be a success, unbeknownst to them.  Another highlight is the boys' stint with hyper bank robber George "Baby-faced" Nelson (Michael Badalucco - Summer of Sam) who displays burn-out afterwards.

While the peculiar but sly Cooley (Daniel Von Bargen) hunts down the once shackled trio to put them back into the prison farm, wonder comes from three sirens at an aquatic glad, a meeting with John Goodman's Big Dan, looking like the one-eyed Cyclops.

As O Brother, Where Art Thou? keeps turning out rich sights and sounds which boast a few special effects, especially a cow in a splashy sequence, everything blends crisply from the detailed period designing to the creative wardrobes and the vibrant Delta blues tunes.

The contemporary turn on a classic doesn't have as imaginative a conclusion, but the Coens are always adept at filling the screen with an audacious, rebellious aura, personified by a wonderfully mounted KKK rally that builds to a wild, sonorous musical climax with a fitting comeuppance.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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