Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The: Joel and Ethan Coen Love of the Western Genre in All Its Varieties

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest film, is an anthology of short Western movies tied together as chapters in a book.

The film, which features an ensemble cast–Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Tyne Daly, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, and best of all Tim Blake Nelson–world premiered Friday in competition at the 2018 Venice Film Fest.

Speaking at the press conference, the brothers said that they began writing some of the stories over 25 years ago. Over time, they compiled the tales, and combine them into a single movie that unfolds like chapters of a single book.

Initially the Coens had planned to turn the stories into an anthological TV series for Netflix, which backed Buster Scruggs and is releasing the film worldwide.

The various stories–six to be exact–represent their own takes on numerous styles of Westerns throughout cinema history, from the singing cowboy movies to the spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood.

For his short story, which opens the movie and is its best chapter (in my opinion), Tim Blake Nelson felt that it encmpasses the entire history of Westerns.  It goes from the singing cowboy to the black-hatted, rock-and-roll revisionist Western, and Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” the actor told  journalists.

The Coens addressed the controversy over the idea of whether or not a Netflix movie should be in competition at the world’s oldest film festival.

“The fact that there are companies that are financing and making movies outside of the mainstream is very important,” Joel Coen said. “It keeps the art form alive. The more, the merrier.”

Ethan Coen added that, in the U.S. at least, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will also have theatrical release, as Netflix award titles get limited qualifying run in theaters.

“A theatrical release was important to us, but they were happy to accommodate us,” said Ethan Coen of Netflix. “That might have been their plan from the beginning. It’s getting a theatrical release in the U.S.” Joel Coen added: “It’s important to us that people who want to see it on the big screen are able to.”