Miller's Crossing ★★★★★

The first (of several) Coen brothers films that I would very happily call "perfect", and still probably my favorite. The screenplay is the most airtight produced in English in the 1990s, using repeated lines and locations to structure an insanely knotty tangle of double crossings and hidden agendas that's so impenetrable that it almost can't have a structrure all its own. And I'm also besotted with how it uses arch, and partially made-up slang to craft a world, a power hierarchy, and a moral system - vocabulary is to this film as accents are to Fargo.

The aesthetic form is no less airtight, and for similar reasons: certain camera angles leading into (or following) certain editing patterns keep reoccurring to bind scenes together and create motifs within motifs. But mostly, it's impressive how every shot and all of the editing rhythms keep spiralling us back to Gabriel Byrne's sublimely opaque performance as a man that we spend an entire film watching think, without ever knowing for a certainty what he's thinking about. One of the very few films that feels bigger and more full of possibilities every time I watch it.

(Previously reviewed at Alternate Ending)

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