LFF: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” or six ways to die in the West

After the successful remake of True GritJoel and Ethan Coen take another walk down the violent Memory Lane of Old Wild West with a curious experiment which puts together various stories they wrote down along the last twenty-five years. It was initially conceived as a mini-series but later found its final shape as a movie which has been awarded with the prize of Best Screenplay at the last edition of Venice Film Festival. 

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs tells six stories of ordinary violence in the West, narrated with the sharp black humour which helped the Coen Brothers make a name with their debut Blood Simple and later on with that masterpiece called Fargo. The episodes we follow, shown in a fine introduction as part of an old collection of short stories, involve a singing lethal outlaw, an unfortunate bank robber, two travelling performers, an old prospector, a naive girl and a group of people travelling on a stagecoach.

It would be wise not to say anything more about the plot as the pace of the story, the plot twists and the perfect balance between laughter and shock make this movie a pleasant divertissement, a sort of joke well-orchestrated shared by the brothers with their audience, with the bittersweet awareness that destiny doesn’t care of anyone and mercy is an unknown word among canyons and prairies. Particularly significant are the episode of the two travellers, the most moving, with a great Liam Neeson in a disturbing role, and the one with Tom Waits as a greed prospector devastating a natural paradise under the vigilant eye of an owl.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is distributed by Netflix but we warmly suggest to watch it in cinemas as the beautiful work of director of photography Bruno Delbonnel (five times Academy Award nominated for movies like Amélie and Darkest Hour) magnifying landscapes and panoramas will leave you breathless.






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