A Handsome Movie About Men In Hats
August 27, 2013 7:46 PM   Subscribe

Miller's Crossing, 20 Years Later Photographing (and finding) the exact filming locations for the Coen Brothers' New Orleans classic and comparing them to present day. [via mefi projects]
posted by The Whelk (54 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Men in high hats?
posted by Brocktoon at 7:52 PM on August 27, 2013


What's the rumpus?
posted by Aznable at 7:55 PM on August 27, 2013


This is cool. The fourth image is from the gunfight when they try to whack Finney. Oh Danny Boyyyy...
posted by KGMoney at 7:57 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then that's a penny you owe him.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:58 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't die out here in the woods like a dumb animal! Look in your heart!
posted by juv3nal at 8:01 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


What heart?
posted by gwint at 8:01 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Used to see Doug the Slug around town all the time-- he was a regular local music scene denizen, though I didn't know him- just saw him around. I sure as hell did a spit take during his cameo. I guess he moved on to better climes a while back. Miller's Crossing seems like a real sleeper, at least in my mind. It stuck in my head pretty good after the first watching, but maybe I hung with the wrong crowd when it came out, because I don't recall it making a cultural dent. I finally bought it on DVD a couple years ago and it took a second watching for me to realize just how meticulously the film was made. Those guys do Noir better than they do comedy, if you ask me, and they're the best comedic filmmakers of their generation. Even Blood Simple hangs right up there.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:10 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sister, when I've raised hell, you'll know it.
posted by stifford at 8:21 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Hey, horses got knees?"

"I dunno... fetlocks."

"Well, if I was a horse, I'd be down on my fetlocks praying you don't bet on me."
posted by fatbird at 8:29 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I'd known we were gonna cast our feelings into words, I'd've memorized the Song of Solomon.
posted by mr. digits at 8:31 PM on August 27, 2013


Miller's Crossing is hands down my favorite Coen Brother's film.* The tone that permeates the film, the moroseness, the fatalism, god, it's perfect. The soundtrack alone is one of the best, most apt soundtracks I've ever heard (good enough for it essentially to be recycled in Fargo).

That said, somehow it'd escaped my attention that the film was set in New Orleans. I'd always just thought it was set in 'the city that Miller's Crossing is set in.'

If there are any doubts about how perfect the movie is, check out the Bruce Willis monstrosity that is Last Man Standing. Both films are based, however loosely, on Yojimbo. One is high art. The other has naked Bruce Willis.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:44 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Another Coen brothers classic, full of great performances; the most amazing is by Steve Buscemi, who took a tiny role and created a fully-developed character. Genius.
posted by ogooglebar at 8:50 PM on August 27, 2013


If there are any doubts about how perfect the movie is, check out the Bruce Willis monstrosity that is Last Man Standing.

Last Man Standing is a total guilty pleasure of mine. I'd like to make a cogent argument for why it's not the monstrosity you claim it is, but I think I'll just settle for confessing that I get a kick out of it regardless.

Miller's Crossing, obviously, is on another level altogether. Far and away my favorite Coen Brothers film too. Add me to the list of people who had no idea it was set in New Orelans. I always thought it was a generic New York.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:53 PM on August 27, 2013


We're a couple of heels, Tom. Yes we are.
posted by dobbs at 8:58 PM on August 27, 2013


One of the all-time greats, imo. It's my litmus test for whether I trust someone's opinion on movies.

SPOILERS.

Whenever someone tells me the movie seems bland and derivative, I ask, "Really? You know another period gangster film with a homosexual love triangle driving the plot?"

They always look at me like I don't know what I'm talking about.
posted by dobbs at 9:00 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


To clarify: I do not believe the movie is set in New Orleans, just filmed here. As far as I know the city in which it is set is some nameless Gotham; the only city that I remember being mentioned is in the quote: "I don't know who he's sellin' it to, maybe the Los Angeles combine, I don't know."
posted by komara at 9:00 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'll admit to a bit of hyperbole, MoonOrb, about Last Man Standing, but I remember being excited to see it in the theater (the trailers looked amazing), but it was basically Bruce Willis slumming, and everyone just standing around, waiting to be violent for some unexplained reason. It's the rare movie where even Christopher Walken plays a completely unmemorable stereotype of a character (crazy dangerous tommy gun wielding goon). I can see it being a guilty pleasure, but it just thoroughly failed to whelm me.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:01 PM on August 27, 2013


In the prologue of the screenplay Louisiana is listed as a proposed (shooting) location but nowhere in the actual script do they mention what city the story takes place.
posted by cazoo at 9:04 PM on August 27, 2013


Um. Look. I'll be that guy. Take another step back to be closer to the source: Miller's Crossing and Last Man Standing are closer to Red Harvest than Yojimbo.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 9:11 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Miller's Crossing and Last Man Standing are closer to Red Harvest than Yojimbo.

I would say it's got as much of Red Harvest in it as it does any other pulp fiction, with the exception of The Glass Key, which clearly provides the bulk of its inspiration. The Coens have copped to this just as they have with Cain's work being the genesis of The Man Who Wasn't There.
posted by dobbs at 9:18 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's weird, I was just thinking about how much I love Jon Polito in this and in all these other Coen brothers movies and then I realized how little screen time he actually had in most of them. In my mind Polito's a fixture of Coen bros movies up there with McDormand and Goodman and Buscemi and Turturro and he's like... barely in any of them, and hasn't been in any since The Man Who Wasn't There.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:32 PM on August 27, 2013


It's gettin' so a businessman can't expect no return from a fixed fight.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:01 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, come on, Tommy. You know I don't like to think.

I always assumed Miller's Crossing took place in a mythical cross of Philadelphia and Boston, but the actual location never really mattered because the atmosphere is so perfectly articulated.
posted by julen at 10:05 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Love this. Love NOLA. Sent to my favorite Miller's Crossing fan, who introduced me to the film.
posted by desuetude at 10:15 PM on August 27, 2013


It's weird, I was just thinking about how much I love Jon Polito in this and in all these other Coen brothers movies and then I realized how little screen time he actually had in most of them. In my mind Polito's a fixture of Coen bros movies up there with McDormand and Goodman and Buscemi and Turturro and he's like... barely in any of them, and hasn't been in any since The Man Who Wasn't There

Well, he is a brother seamus.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:49 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Great film. Thanks for posting this, Whelk.
posted by homunculus at 11:05 PM on August 27, 2013


it's not just one of my fave Coen Bros films, it's one of my fave films, evar.
and it really is very Red Harvest - so much so, i always just figured it was set in Poisonville. had no idea it was actually shot in NOLA.
thanks, Whelk!
posted by lapolla at 11:13 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just the other day Cinephilia and Beyond posted a copy of the screenplay along with some great stills and interviews and other choice tid bits.
posted by Aznable at 11:34 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one that thought it was Chicago?
posted by snwod at 2:04 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


My dad loves gangster movies, so when Miller's Crossing was released he and my mom and a few friends went to see it...and they all hated it so much they bought him a VHS copy as a gag gift for his next birthday. Then one day I watched it...and it's one of my 10 favourite films of all time. Add my name to the list of people here who think it's the Coens' best.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:18 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Men in high hats? Women in high hair, more like. The most memorable shot in the movie (inmho) is Marcia Gay Harden languishing in one of those incredibly large 1920's doorways with a hairstyle which reminded me of Rosalind Russell's mad hat in "His Girl Friday". A bit like Kid from Kid n Play. (Since the movie was shot in what 1988, I suppose I shouldnt be surprised).
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 4:22 AM on August 28, 2013


Such a beautiful film. And so many great lines.

I feel like the Coens sometimes struggle with ending their screenplays, but the ending to this one always felt earned, to me.
posted by gauche at 4:28 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is no end to my love of this film. My favorite Coen Brothers scene for the longest time was the "Danny Boy" sequence until it was narrowly edged out by "The Goy's Teeth" in "A Serious Man".
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:45 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Youse fancy pants, all a youse.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 5:36 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't seem to get to the screenplay through Aznable's link -- and there's nothing more foolish than a man chasing a hat link -- but then I circled around and noticed this Coen Bros. site provides a .pdf and what looks like it might be all kinds of other good stuff.
posted by mr. digits at 5:58 AM on August 28, 2013


Take your flunky and dangle.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:27 AM on August 28, 2013


The film's got a distinct Chicago feel, but I'm not sure I could tell you why other than the odd accent here or there.

At any rate and shooting location aside, we can tell it's not SET in New Orleans by the lack of that city's unique vernacular, and the constant presence of overcoats and other accessories more suited to colder climes.
posted by uberchet at 7:33 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm glad to find so much love for this movie here.

When my wife and I were dating, knowing that she liked the Coen brothers generally, and that she hadn't seen Miller's Crossing, I rented this for us. I had a lot of fond memories of the film from my first viewing, and enjoyed it as well the second time around.

For whatever reason, she mocked it mercilessly - don't know why, don't know what it was about the film or that night, but she hated it and was not shy about letting me know.

So it's always been a bit of a secret affection of mine, and I'm glad to know that I'm not some kind of weirdo for liking it. And I've always loved this exchange:


Verna: Shouldn't you be doing your job?

Tom Reagan: Intimidating helpless women is my job.

Verna: Then go find one, and intimidate her.


I had no clue it was filmed in New Orleans; it definitely has a big anonymous city feel going on. I will have to watch it again and look for the New Orleans touches.
posted by nubs at 8:20 AM on August 28, 2013


Yeah, I would have guessed Chicago, too. The woods, where they drive out for the execution looks more northern, & not undergrown & swampy like Louisiana. Those scenes are the ones that stick in my memory most of all, for some reason. The long shot of the car parked in the trees just gives me the willies, in a good way of course.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:30 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The woods, where they drive out for the execution looks more northern, & not undergrown & swampy like Louisiana.

That was reportedly shot at a pine tree farm somewhere on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain; I have been unable to find out which one and visit it. You're right, though, in thinking that it doesn't show as typical southern Louisiana forest.
posted by komara at 8:45 AM on August 28, 2013


Hey, "Last Man Standing" might not be great cinema, but the
soundtrack is astounding. Parts of it have Ry Cooder playing a
slide guitar that is something like 12, 18 feet long and embedded
in the concrete floor of some Hollywood sound studio.

As to "Millers Crossing" location, I always read it as being somewhere
in upstate New York, since the history of an Irish mafia is writ rather
large there. Joe Kennedy trucking in illegal hootch from Canada during
Prohibition, etc.
posted by Chitownfats at 10:30 AM on August 28, 2013


Seein' you mope around here ruins my, whaddya call it, "joy de veever"?

I always think of Miler's Crossing as being a Ramond Chandler novel that Phillip Marlowe hasn't shown up to.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:30 AM on August 28, 2013


I love Miller's Crossing so much I've been avoiding rewatching it for years, in hopes of keeping a little juice in that berry to extract when the time is right....

According to Wikipedia Kurosawa cited the 1942 film adaptation of The Glass Key as a major inspiration for Yojimbo, I think it's safe to say all cited DNA is in there - the overall plot and character of Tom as the protagonist to me seems closest to The Glass Key (not to mention the wealth of fantastic wordplay that is ripped off wholesale)... but Miller's Crossing is full of distinct and original characters and poses pretty different questions about them... and as cinema it's just not quite like anything else. It's unquestionably one of the Coens' true masterpieces.
posted by nanojath at 12:43 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the only DVD i own that I actually watch. It's a briliiant, funny, gorgeous film. Yes, I like it.
posted by Mister_A at 12:57 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


People gotta quit doing this to me; talking about things on my list "to check out" since they were new that are now 20 years old.
posted by bongo_x at 1:14 PM on August 28, 2013


If I don't get away soon I'll be going blood simple like the natives," says the Op.
-- Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest

The long shot of the car parked in the trees just gives me the willies, in a good way of course.

There's an homage to that shot in Road to Perdition.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:14 PM on August 28, 2013


Yeah, I juuuust rewatched it and I was struck by much it was. Dashiell Hammet story, way more than actual adaptations of Hammet novels.

Also, obviously for fashion tips.
posted by The Whelk at 8:04 PM on August 28, 2013


( and the embrassing revelation that I say " nuts!" " go dangle" , etc on a regular basis)
posted by The Whelk at 8:05 PM on August 28, 2013


I told a guy at work the other day to "take it on the heel and toe!" and got quite a look.
posted by komara at 8:06 PM on August 28, 2013


My slow descent into just turning into a Boardwalk Empire background character continues unabated.
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 PM on August 28, 2013


This is very much one of my favorite films, although among Coen films I still prefer Fargo. Marge Gunderson is one of my favorite characters in all of film.

I love it all the more for the anonymous, notional city it's set in, somewhat north and damp in winter by all the coats, but maybe not too far north. It's industrial, ethnic, and dirty. But it's small enough to be controlled by one gang, and contested by perhaps two more at most. That rules out someplace like Chicago. And we are so often, in movies, treated to the same old New York locations, or Vancouver or Toronto or even LA aping New York, and using New York as "generic city" for storytelling purposes. It's such a tired trope. So I love the way they take elements of different cities (New Orleans locations, northern/ethnic dress and culture) and mix them together and dare not to name it (because a fake city name would actually be the worst).

It's also one of the few movies in which I really like (in movie viewer terms) the Gabriel Byrne character. I have long pegged him as an actor not quite living up to his potential. But wow, Marcia Gay Harden smolders right through the celluloid, without any of the archness that besmirches other retro femmes fatales such as Katherine Turner in Body Heat.

And the Third Man homage in the ending is perfect as homage, living up to the original and twisting it enough to make it its own. The warm male bonding note is now rare in film.
posted by dhartung at 2:59 AM on August 29, 2013


A person over at Reddit who claims to've been an extra for three days claims that the setting is New Jersey.
posted by mr. digits at 12:29 PM on August 30, 2013


The top fifty quotes of Miller's Crossing - In order of Awesomeness
posted by nubs at 3:57 PM on September 4, 2013


Between this, the Clue thread and the recent Clueless thread, about 90% of the movie quotes I roll out on a regular conversational basis have been covered.

Someone quick do FPPs on the Big Lebowski and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:08 PM on September 4, 2013


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