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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 May 2007, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
Coens deliver thrills in Cannes
By Stephen Robb
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Cannes

Actors Josh Brolin (left) and Javier Bardem kissing actress Kelly MacDonald
The film stars Josh Brolin (left), Kelly MacDonald and Javier Bardem
Expectation is always high for a new Coen brothers film - but it was particularly keen for the movie marking their seventh Cannes competition entry, No Country for Old Men.

An adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's acclaimed and brutal modern-day Western sounded like a perfect choice for the makers of violent thrillers such as Miller's Crossing and Fargo.

This comes after two comedies - Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers - proved relative disappointments.

Set in Texas in 1980, No Country for Old Men follows Llewelyn Moss, played by Josh Brolin, fighting for survival after making off with $2m (1m) he finds in the desert at the site of a drug deal gone wrong.

Still from No Country for Old Men
Spanish star Javier Bardem gives an extraordinary performance
In pursuit is the relentless and remorseless Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, who gives one of the most memorably chilling film performances in years.

Tommy Lee Jones appears as world-weary Sheriff Bell, trying to halt the spiralling body count while increasingly unable to comprehend the violence around him.

With no sign yet of an undisputed classic in competition at this 60th Cannes, No Country for Old Men may have emerged as a frontrunner for the trophy Joel and Ethan Coen collected for Barton Fink in 1991.

"We are very fortunate in that our films have sort of found a home here," says Joel.

"From the point of view of getting the movies out to an audience, this has always been a very congenial platform.

"I just attribute that to luck, and a very sympathetic administration here in terms of them liking our work."

He adds: "So we keep coming back here because we are invited and it's quite good for the movies."

Directors Ethan (left) and Joel Coen in Cannes
Directors Ethan (left) and Joel Coen won the Palme d'Or in 1991
No Country for Old Men should also be good for Bardem, whose extraordinary performance yields unlikely humour from the portrayal of a psychopath who decides people's fate on a coin-toss.

"I don't think that's anything that you can script," says Joel.

"That's just something that makes him a great actor - those sort of unexpected, and unscripted, unplanned details."

They also stop his "super-bad guy" character being formulaic, and make it "flesh and blood, and fascinating to watch", the film-maker adds.

A best actor honour is another possibility when the festival reaches its conclusion on 27 May.

Critical support

The reception to the film's first press screening in Cannes on Friday was positive.

Screen International's jury of critics, assembled for its daily Cannes publication, all gave the film three or four marks out of four.

The magazine's review said the film fell short of "the greatness that sometimes seems within its grasp".

But it added that the film was "guaranteed to attract a healthy audience on the basis of the track record of those involved, respect for the novel and critical support".

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