Do you ever get a clip from a film stuck in your head like a catchy bit of music? It does that same looping around thing, whereby it plays, gets to the end of the bit that you know, then there’s a brief moment of relief when you think you’ve got rid of it, only for it to begin again, jerking out the same few motions? Anyway. I got that recently.
Like many people, I really love a lot of the Coen brothers’ films. I think this began with O Brother Where Art Thou?, deepened with repeated viewings of The Big Lebowski, and was confirmed by going back and watching their first movie, Blood Simple. However, a couple of their more well-regarded ones have left me a bit cold, especially Fargo and Barton Fink. With Fargo, I didn’t really feel either the tension of Blood Simple (or No Country for Old Men), or the humour of The Big Lebowski or O Brother… I’ve only watched it once, so should probably give it a second shot: certainly, Lebowski improves on second and third viewing, and by the 4th you’re planning in advance and buying the ingredients for White Russians and stuff.
The point I was making, though, was about Barton Fink. I watched it about 4 years ago, one day when I was home sick from work. I remember just finding it baffling: nothing much happened and nothing seemed at stake either. Again I’m probably being stupid. But whatever: to get, finally, to the point, there was one scene in particular that despite my general lack of appreciation for the film, just stuck with me. It’s the one, where Barton Fink (played by John Turturro) arrives at his hotel in LA and encounters Chet at reception. Coincidentally, the AV Club did a review of this very scene a couple years ago, which I found while Googling stuff for this blog post. See it here; they have the clip embedded as well.
There were two thing about it: 1), the way the bell keeps ringing and ringing, fading away until you can’t perceive it any longer. But then Chet emerges and he places his finger on the bell and actually stops it ringing and you’re not sure whether you were imagining or hearing the ringing for the past few seconds. 2), Chet’s “CHET!” note that he hands Barton. That’s all it is, his name in block capitals with an exclamation mark, and the fact that he says his name twice before writing it down and handing it over just gives me a warm chuckle every time it plays back over in my head.