Joel Coen – without Ethan – adapts Macbeth in an expressionist version fed by echoes of film noir, visually polished but filmed without passion.
Astonishing trend: the separations of famous duets of filmmakers. After Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly without his brother Bobby, and Matrix Resurrections, signed Lana Wachowski without her sister Lily, here is Joel Coen’s first film shot without Ethan. It must be said that the project – a Shakespearean adaptation – is unusual for the duo from Minnesota. In the Coen siblings, we generally distinguish Joel d’Ethan by specifying that it is the one of the two who is married to Frances McDormand. This one, a great theater actress in her spare time, had asked her husband, in 2016, if that told him to go up Macbeth at the Repertory Theater in Berkeley. He preferred to make a film of it, which is here today, via the Apple TV + platform. Shot in the studio, in an expressionist black and white imagined by Bruno Delbonnel, this new Macbeth pays its tribute to that of Orson Welles through the film noir box, having fun tracking down what is James M. Cain (and therefore of the Coen brothers) in this story of femme fatale, murderous couple and descent into hell. An interesting vision, but which remains superficial, the film being moreover too preoccupied with its fidelity to the text – which gives it an academic aspect. The sets impress (abstract spaces ending up resembling a mental prison), Denzel Washington assures us, but the urgency or the need to tell this story again (already very often brought to the cinema) never appears. . We stay away from the film, without being able to get involved emotionally. Our side Ethan Coen, no doubt.
By Joel Coen. With Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Bertie Carvel … Duration 1h45. Available January 14 on Apple TV +.