The Coen Brothers' Blood Simple to Buster Scruggs

Course Dates: 16/11/19
Time: 10:30 - 16:30
Location: KS - Keeley Street
John Wischmeyer

From cult hits Raising Arizona (1987) and The Big Lebowski (1998) to major critical darlings Fargo (1996) and No Country for Old Men (2007), Ethan and Joel Coen have cultivated a bleakly comical, instantly recognisable voice in modern American cinema, a singular mix of darkness and levity.


What is the course about?

The first to the latest: Blood Simple to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Their first movie was the film noir, Blood Simple (1984), following the story of a bar-owner who asks a detective to murder his wife and her lover. The Coens directed, but only Joel appears in the credits and he accepted awards at Sundance and Independent Spirit.
The Coens’ newest is another Western, following after No Country For Old Men and True Grit. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, might be their bleakest work of all, and one of their richest, an omnibus film comprised of six short Old West tales jarringly different in tone. The first two are crammed with bloody deaths but giddy and absurdist — they give you a high. The third is a steep drop into icy waters. The fourth is lighter, though it leaves a bitter taste, and the fifth is simply crushing. The sixth is on its own weird, cosmic plateau. Different on the surface, they’re philosophically all of a piece.

Tutor biography:

John Wischmeyer (MA in Film Theory) set up, ran and programmed his own cinema in West London and has since taught film studies at the former Gainsborough studio, the BFI and City Lit since 1999, Hitchcock’s centenary year. John has covered a wide range film topics under the banner ‘Cinema Investigates America’ and has a particular interest in and considerable knowledge of Hitchcock, Hollywood studios, American independent cinema and film noir, film technique and style.

What will we cover?

We view and explore a documentary on American independent cinema that places the Coens alongside Spike Lee and Jim Jarmush.
Includes a curated collection of clips from key Coen films, to build a collage of their working practice, style and themes. Discuss Hail Caesar! as a satire on Hollywood and Fargo as a portrayal osmall-town America, with comparisons to David Lynch.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

List the key Coen Brothers films
Place the films in the context of their 1980’s debut and current work
Discuss their working methods, style and themes.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

All levels are welcome. You will have an enthusiasm for film.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Tutor’s lecture/presentation illustrated with numerous film clips and re-mixes to stimulate discussion. Handouts are given for further research.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

No other costs. Bring a pen and paper for notes.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for film studies courses on the web under History, Writing and Culture at

General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details

Tutor Biographies
We’re sorry. We don’t have a bio ready for the tutor of this class at the moment, but we’re working on it! Watch this space.

Book your place

Course Code: HF039

Sat, day, 16 Nov - 16 Nov '19

Duration: 1 session

Full fee: £59.00
Senior fee: £47.00
Concession: £30.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

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Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2652

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