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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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"No Country" and the meaning of violence

From Denise Thompson, Stafford, VA:

After seeing "No Country For Old Men" last night, I could not disagree more whole-heartedly with your review, and to liken it to the same feeling you got from Fargo, well, I’m mystified. While I have loved Coen movies in the past, particularly Fargo, I found "No Country For Old Men" to be an overly violent piece of work that kept the blood artists happy but did nothing I consider it largely a slasher film, pure and simple. It’s a film full of gratuitous, senseless violence and a plot that was albeit non-existent. I am very concerned that such a slasher film has been so highly honored at awards shows this year. The extreme, senseless violence in a time when senseless violence is at a fever pitch, creating praise for a senseless psychopath scares me. And if I never see another compressed air canister again I won’t be disappointed.

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That does not mean the picture was without any merit. As a matter of fact, there were several scenes that were very good, the best being the conversation between Ellis and the Sheriff where the Sheriff admits that he doesn’t feel he can “match up” to the tasks at hand any more and that’s why he’s retiring, or the scene with the Sheriff’s wife and the Sheriff discuss his dreams at the kitchen table. This is where the good writing of the Coen brothers comes in, as well as the opening monologue.

Coen brothers movies always make me excited because I know I will see a movie like no other. In this case, I wish I had missed it. I can’t see how showing how one man can kill nearly every person he meets shows anything other than a total disregard for life. For me, the greater meaning is lost completely in the outrageous, nonsensical violence spawned by one psychopath’s daily life. Well, at least it’s sparked conversations.

Editor's Note: Please see this letter, which offers an entirely different take on the film's violence.

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