In the Dark

Mortal Remains

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Produced by Annapurna Pictures 
Written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen 
Distributed by Netflix 

Produced by Participant Media
Written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Distributed by Netflix 

Near the end of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the Coen brothers’ latest cinematic whimsy being shown on Netflix, Brendan Gleeson sings a ditty (a British ballad called “The Unfortunate Lad,” on which “The Streets of Laredo” was based) that includes a verse about a man dying of syphilis.  This fellow laments his state and ruefully points out that he might have avoided infection if only the lady in question had told him about hers.  He could have taken white mercury pills.  He then specifies how he wants to be carried to his grave.

Get six pretty maidens to bear up my pall

and give to each of them bunches of roses

that they may not smell me as they go along.

As devotees of the cankered muse, the Coens naturally put beauty and stench side by side.  Don’t be fooled, they seem to say.  Whatever their appearance, humans are disgusting vermin or, as one character in the film puts it, ferrets.  How true.  Just read today’s paper to find evidence of this.  You can’t...

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