12 octobre 1984. Mélanger film noir et humour, quelle drôle d’idée ! C’est pourtant l’approche qu’ont adopté les frères Coen pour leur premier film, Blood Simple. Le passant solitaire, friand de découverte, se laisse tenter en cet après-midi d’octobre. Et il a le pressentiment qu’il ne va pas être déçu.
Critique d’époque :
« Black humor, abundant originality and a brilliant visual style make Joel Coen’s Blood Simple a directorial debut of extraordinary promise. Mr. Coen, who co-wrote the film with his brother Ethan, works in a film noir style that in no way inhibits his wit, which turns out to be considerable. This is a film in which a dying man, mistakenly shot by a woman who cannot see him (and who meant to kill someone else), can hear her shout one more insult at the intended victim – and answer her, « Well, ma’am, if I see him I’ll sure give him the message ».
A lot of dying is done in Blood Simple, and almost none of it is done right. The plot concerns four people – a bar owner (Dan Hedaya), his wife (Frances McDormand), the bartender whom the wife runs off with (John Getz), and the private detective hired to kill the runaway couple (M. Emmet Walsh, the veteran character actor, who plays him with a mischievousness that is perfect for the role).
Their paths cross, re-cross and tangle to the point where the plot becomes a series of ingenious mistakes and misapprehensions. When the bartender, for instance, finds the bleeding, lifeless body of the bar owner, he thinks the wife shot her husband; he loves her, so he cleans up the mess and takes the body away to bury it. But the body is not so dead as it ought to be. And besides – we know, but nobody in the film does – it was the detective who did the shooting.
For all the plot’s potential ghoulishness, Mr. Coen often interjects the kind of visual cleverness that underscores the playful mood. A long, late- night tracking shot from one end of the Neon Boot bar to another actually tracks along the surface of the bar itself – and when there is a drunk passed out on the bar, the camera simply lifts up and flies over him, then continues on its route.
A conversation is sharply interrupted by the sound, and sight, of a newspaper flying right into a plate- glass window. A car, embarking at night on a secret mission in a newly furrowed field, is seen the next morning to have left very clear tracks perpendicular to all the furrows. The film’s final shootout, though grisly, also manages to have its share of bizarre humor and even beauty.
The camera work by Barry Sonnenfeld is especially dazzling. So is the fact that Mr. Coen, unlike many people who have directed great-looking film noir efforts, knows better than to let handsomeness become the film’s entire raison d’être. In addition to its stylishness, Blood Simple has the kind of purposefulness and coherence that show Mr. Coen to be headed for bigger, even better, things« . Par Janet Maslin pour le New York Times.
Intelligent, ludique, original, visuellement brillant, mélange réussi de film noir et d’humour macabre. Blood Simple est tout ça à la fois. Janet Maslin estime à juste titre que ce premier long métrage est un film aux promesses extraordinaires pour la suite. L’avenir lui donnera raison.