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Understanding LovePhilosophy, Film, and Fiction$
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Susan Wolf and Christopher Grau

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195384512

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195384512.001.0001

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Love and Bullshit in Santa Rosa

Love and Bullshit in Santa Rosa

Pastiche in The Man Who Wasn’t There

(p.345) 16 Love and Bullshit in Santa Rosa
Understanding Love

George M. Wilson

Oxford University Press

Among contemporary American directors, the Coen brothers recurrently favor pastiche as a narrative strategy. Pastiche is the mixing of incongruous genres, normally joined with the aim of subverting the traditional values and assumptions associated with the component genres. Their 2001 film, The Man who Wasn’t There, appears to be a paradigmatic example. It mixes the style and content of film noir traditions with a narrative resolution that trades on elements from ‘alien invasion’ movies from the 50’s. Examining the narrative and its idiosyncratic narration, I argue that this film has a thematic unity one might not have expected. The protagonist’s alienation is so deep it seems to require aliens from outer space to rescue him. Moreover, the movie offers an affirmation of marital ‘love’ as potentially a shelter from the incessant ‘bullshit’ that marks the empty, manipulative social order of ‘modern man.’

Keywords:   Coen brothers, The Man Who Wasn’t There, narrative, narration, pastiche, alienation, aliens (from outer space), bullshit

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