The Coen brothers’ new epic, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” is an anthology film, a collection of short segments combined under a framing device to make a feature-length whole. The siblings, Joel and Ethan, wrote and directed all six segments, so this film plays like a dinner eaten at a small plates restaurant. Inevitably, some of the dishes are going to be tastier than others. With credits like “True Grit” and “No Country for Old Men,” the Coens are clearly serious Western fans, and they apparently have been accumulating these stories for years. Previous plans to turn them in a limited series for TV were discarded for the current form. Always sticklers for details, the brothers have come up with a deft framing device, creating a fictional antiquarian book titled “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Other Tales of the American Frontier.” They’ve even supplied tissue-paper leaves protecting the N.C. Wyeth-type illustrations that are revealed as the pages are carefully turned. And they’ve cast a great number of strong and sometimes unexpected actors, including Tyne Daly, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Kazan, Liam Neeson and Tim Blake Nelson. All the stories deal with life and (especially) violent death in the… Read full this story
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