O Brother, Where Art Thou?

dir. Joel Coen

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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In 1930s Mississippi, three escaped convicts (George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson) attempt to retrieve a cache of stolen loot, in Joel and Ethan Coen's hilarious updating of Homer's Odyssey.

In 1930s Mississippi, loquacious, self-styled slickster Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) escapes from a chain gang with his dimwitted pals Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), seeking to reclaim a cache of stolen loot that Ulysses left at his house before it is flooded by the waters from a new hydroelectric dam. Traipsing across the Depression-era South, the trio encounters a menagerie of oddballs — including a cycloptic Bible salesman (John Goodman), a brace of sweet-voiced sirens, bank robber Baby Face Nelson (Michael Badalucco), a white-hooded lynch mob, an aspiring bluesman named Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King) who has sold his soul to the Devil — and inadvertently manages to become a radio sensation as a singing group under the name "The Soggy Bottom Boys." A typically sardonic Coens take on a classic text (Homer's The Odyssey, which the brothers claim to have never read) with a title courtesy of the fake film in Preston Sturges' screwball classic Sullivan's Travels, O Brother is a jangling, good-natured and frequently hilarious addition to the Coens' peculiar folk mythology; the film's vintage soundtrack (compiled by T-Bone Burnett) became a surprise hit, winning the Grammy for Album of the Year and helping fuel a contemporary folk-music revival.