The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs ★★★★½

Third time watching all the way through—though I've watched the title episode on its own two or three times on top of that.

It's another great Coen Brothers movie, and what's wonderful about it is the way it explores our concept of "The American West" from so many different angles. Each episode has its own specific landscape and flavor, and we're shown all the familiar characters—the outlaw, the settlers, the prospector, townsfolk and frontiersmen. In the bookend episodes we even have the meta-West in the recreation of an old-Hollywood singing cowboy (albeit a comically murderous one) and a metaphysical West in which six (seven?) characters travel into the sunset and terra incognita.

Like most of the Coens’ films, Buster Scruggs is packed with invention and cultural touch points, and somehow its kaleidoscopic view inspires within me more wonder and excitement about the American frontier than twenty John Fordses.

“Your shootin’ iron work?”

“Appears to do, yes.”

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