'Hudsucker Proxy' modifies reality

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Film's innate visual characteristics allow it to be artfully exaggerated to produce a burlesque comedy.

The masters of this, Joel and Ethan Coen, combine flamboyant exaggeration with a crafty obscurity. Their films "Blood Simple," "Raising Arizona," "Miller's Crossing," "Barton Fink" and "The Hudsucker Proxy" are unique visual extravaganzas with serpentine plots. But while the Coens delight in comic exaggeration, they love being obscure and snicker when audiences fail to catch their ambiguous humor. They pursue comedy with the devious scheming of horror directors.

Their latest film, just released on video, is "The Hudsucker Proxy," a grandiose comedy set in a fantasy-esque corporate world reminiscent of "Brazil." However, the movie's themes reflect the idealism of "It's a Wonderful Life."

The movie introduces Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins), a naive business school graduate who moves to New York in 1957 looking for a job. Amazingly, Hudsucker Industries' president has jumped off a skyscraper and Norville soon finds himself the presidential proxy of a greedy business conspiracy led by Sydney Mussberger (Paul Newman). But Norville's simplicity just might save him.

One of the movie's real charms is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who plays fast-talking reporter Amy Archer with energetic glee.

But the Coens are the star of the movie with their inventive writing, exaggerated camerawork and constant play with fantasy and reality.

A few critics complain that the Coens' films are "unrealistic," but they miss the point: Therein lies their humor. They circumvent audience expectations by challenging notions of reality. One comic motif of "The Hudsucker Proxy" involves objects like newspaper pages and hoola hoops that seemingly take on a life of their own through unaided movements. The Coens delight in presenting the unlikely through visual earnestness.

"The Hudsucker Proxy" is one of the year's most enjoyable films. The Coens' other movies are equally enjoyable with their twisting of established genres like film noirs, crime movies, and gangster films. Their unpredictable movies are sometimes bewildering, often hilarious, and always fiendishly clever.

"I Like To Watch" is an alterNation feature that recommends favorite movies available on video.

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