Blood Simple

Director: Joel Coen
Screenwriters: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Institute History


When Joel and Ethan Coen arrived at the 1985 United States Film Festival with Blood Simple, nobody had ever heard of them. When they left a week later with the Grand Jury Prize, genre film would never be the same.

The Coen brothers have a unique ability to pay homage to a film genre and have fun with it simultaneously. The pace of Blood Simple is so deliberate, and the camera angles so disorienting, that at first you think they must be kidding. But a funny thing happens. The plodding pace begins to seem ominous, heavy with suspicion and impending doom, and the camera angles make you feel that unseen eyes are always watching.

Blood Simple is the blackest of film noirs. There’s plenty of blood, but things are seldom simple, although the premise is straightforward enough. Marty, a wealthy Texas bar owner (Dan Hedaya), discovers his unhappy wife, Abby (Frances McDormand), is having an affair with his sympathetic bartender, Ray (John Getz), so he hires a most unsavory private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to bump them off several misunderstandings and double crosses later, things are much more complicated, and no one trusts anyone.

In Blood Simple, the Coen brothers parlay a pearl-handled revolver, a misplaced lighter, a string of not-so-fresh fish, and a body that refuses to stay dead into a dark delight that is clever, suspenseful, and sometimes downright bizarre. M. Emmet Walsh gives the performance of a lifetime as the sleaziest, scummiest private detective ever put onscreen.

The print being screened at the Festival is the newly restored and reedited director’s cut of the film. Joel Coen is expected to attend the screening.

Screening Details

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