Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar! (Coens, 2016) Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes; Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio's stars in line

The best actor in this picture is not visible: Michael Gambon. He is also out of place in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson, 2004) - by being in it. In this one, he's simply out of the place. Gambon is the narrator. None of the reviews I've read of the film even mention anything about this.

After seeing this, I've found that it's an excellent movie to recollect in tranquillity. It's episodic in structure, and the episodes are often quite short, and it's pleasurable to be able to recall and retell them, especially in conversation with someone else who has seen the movie.

Two such episodes are intercut in the only scene in which Frances McDormand (Mrs Coen) appears. She's a film editor and is in the scene in which we've previously seen Hobie, the cowboy, has trouble saying the line the way his director, Ralph Fiennes, wants him to. We are watching the scene on the editing monitor and just about to get to the line when the editor gets her scarf caught in the machine and it's strangling her. After it's reversed and she escapes, the machine is run forward again, and we find that the line ... has been replaced with one word. I know it doesn't sound very funny told in prose, but it's a brilliant piece of film-making.

The film ends with a crane shot. It draws our attention to the word BEHOLD painted on a water-tower. Craning up, the shot reveals the huge studio complex which the tower - and the command - dominate. This obliquely recalls the film-in-the-film, the one being made when our movie opens (and which is called Hail Caesar). It's a Victor-Mature-type sword-and-sandal epic about the revelation of the Christ. So there's an invitation here to think about the domination of the sacred and/or the sublime.

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 7 April, 2017 | Now: 28 May, 2023