There are SPOILERS here!
I find that sometimes to further infiltrate the skin of a movie one must read other’s interpretations to help resolve ones own thoughts, and then to create a dialogue. Jim Emerson at Scanners has recently put forth many posts about the Coen Brother’s latest film No Country for Old Men, and I’ll let him say many of the things I could say, as I agree with most of what he puts forth, which can be read in its entirety here. He states with eloquence some of the ideas that permeate the film and some of the problems he sees in other critics interpretations of the film. He begins with this assesment before moving into the film itself.
“No Country for Old Men” has been called a “perfect” film by those who love it and those who were left cold by it. Joel and Ethan Coen have been praised and condemned for their expert “craftsmanship” and their “technical” skills — as if those skills had nothing to do with filmmaking style, or artistry; as if they existed apart from the movie itself. Oh, but the film is an example of “impeccable technique” — you know, for “formalists.” And the cinematography is “beautiful.” Heck, it’s even “gorgeous.” …
But what do those terms mean if they are plucked out of the movie like pickles from a cheeseburger? How is something “beautiful” apart from what it does in the film? (See uncomprehending original-release reviews of “Barry Lyndon” and “Days of Heaven,” for example, in which the “beautiful” was treated as something discrete from the movie itself.) When somebody claims that a movie overemphasizes the “visual” — whether they’re talking about Stanley Kubrick or Terence Malick or the Coens — it’s a sure sign that they’re not talking about cinema, but approaching film as an elementary school audio-visual aid. When critics (and viewers) refer to the filmmakers’ application of “craft,” “technique,” and “style” (can these things be applied, casually or relentlessly, with a spatula?) without consideration of how these expressions function in the movie, we’re all in trouble. A composition, a cut, a dissolve, a movement — they’re all manifestations of craft (or skill), technique (the systematic use of skill), style (artistic expression).
Great points before he goes further into the themes of the film.