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is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

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Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

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Tuesday
Nov132007

In Which The Hair Makes The Man Not The Other Way Around As We Journey Through No Country For Old Men

Chighur Cut

or, Javier don’t you go and cut that hair, do you think its gonna make him change...

by Harris Feinsod

Scholars of the medieval period are frequently faced with a difficult challenge when they study manuscripts. Among a proliferation of codices poorly copied by celibate but frequently drunk scribes, how can the true authorship of a text be firmly established? The Holy Grail of manuscript culture – the two million bucks in a black satchel – is the “autograph,” an original manuscript attributable directly to the hand of the master.

For Dante, none exists. For Petrarch, one was found in the Vatican library less than fifty years ago. Philologists attempt to arrive at the autograph copy by working through terms often called “text growth” and “text corruption,” which describe the errors, interpolations, and inventions frequent in the process of transcription. Philologists create working rules like “the shorter the better” and “is it better without it?” to determine whether certain phrases are later additions or part of an original text.

In our time, the proliferation of bad copy by internet and print journalists poses similar difficulties of attribution. Philological methods, after all, are intended for the entire domain of the customs and habits of a culture.

So take the classic movie review. Once a particularly apt coinage has been minted to describe a character or plot device, it generally spreads across the internet as senselessly and violently as exurban housing developments.

Six reviewers in major American newspapers have described Javier Bardem’s haircut in No Country for Old Men as a “Prince Valiant” coiffure. Only one, Stephen Hunter, crime novelist and Washington Post reviewer, refers us to Robert Wagner in the film version.

 

The others, it seems, have no particular referent in mind, with the exception of Keith Phipps of The Onion who specifies that all Prince Valiant cuts are after the style of the “bob” (see Portman, below). Yet Phipps, it seems, may only have Dana Stevens’ qualification of Bardem as a “bob-haired golem” in mind.

Is Phipps writing in advance of Stevens and Hunter, or fusing their insights together?

Bob Cut, The Professional

Is A.O. Scott, in deploying striking restraint with the description “deadpan sociopath with a funny haircut” oblivious of the need to pin Bardem’s character to some obscure androgynous product of a bygone culture industry, or is he consciously attempting to pull film criticism out of the fracas?

And can anyone please explain how Scott Foundas of the Village Voice came up with the Adam's Family's “Cousin Itt,” a creature who, path-breaking as he is, bears as much resemblance to Bardem as a mop without a handle?

"The Cold Swedish Winter" -- Jens Lenkman (mp3)

Herewith are posted 21 major newspaper film critics describing the Chighur Cut, which collectively comprise the archeology of a haircut. As Pier Vittorio Tondelli wrote in 1980 to Alberto Arbasino, Italian novelist to Italian novelist, let us all experiment with “a little philology of our youth.”

***


Stephen Hunter, Washington Post: His main pursuer, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem in Robert Wagner's haircut from "Prince Valiant"), is Death, without a pale horse.

 

Stephen Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer: On another side of the same West Texas borderlands, a psycho with a Prince Valiant haircut and a sense of brutal irony is busy strangling a deputy sheriff, stealing his car, pulling over a driver, and blowing a hole in his head with a cattle gun.

David Edelstein, New York: No Country for Old Men is dominated by Bardem and his Prince Valiant haircut, basso-Lurch voice, and dark, freaky stare in the extended foreplay before his killings.

Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: Bardem, with his impassive, blocklike face and Prince Valiant haircut, is a totemic bad guy, so humorless he's humorous.

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: The killer (Bardem), who sports a Prince Valiant haircut and invites some of his victims to flip a coin to determine their fates, is dubbed a "ghost" by the baffled sheriff.

Keith Phipps, The Onion: Soon, he's hunted by hired killer Javier Bardem, whose delicate Prince Valiant bob is more than counterbalanced by his handiness with a pneumatic slaughterhouse tool.

Dana Stevens, Slate: That's not to say that there aren't certain images from No Country for Old Men that will haunt you, especially those involving Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a bob-haired golem of a bad guy who lumbers through southwestern Texas amassing what may be the highest per-villain body count in any movie this year.

Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh.

Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: For all the compact intensity of Brolin's vivid turn as a common scrambling man who's not as smart as he thinks, for all Jones' pouchy authority when it comes to embodying Texas vernacular, and especially for all Bardem's thrilling ability to truly terrify (not just with his stun gun but with his glazed stare and baroque pageboy hairstyle), the leading character in this reverberating movie is silence, save for the sights and sounds of air and breath.

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: Bardem plays this hired assassin with a creepy page-boy haircut and the eyes of a religious fanatic.

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon: It's the most ambitious and impressive Coen film in at least a decade, featuring the flat, sun-blasted landscapes of west Texas -- spectacularly shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins -- and an eerily memorable performance by Javier Bardem, in a Ringo Starr haircut, as a Terminator-esque hit man with a cattle-killing air gun.

Rick Groen, The Toronto Globe and Mail: His head, framed in a blunt haircut that could be the devil's own comb-over, seems massive and, together with unblinking eyes that miss nothing, gives him the look of a pit bull with a serious IQ.

Glenn Kenny, Premiere: Chigurh, whose hobby of deciding whether or not to kill someone based on a coin flip is one of his lesser eccentricities (and whose look recalls that of Lon Chaney in London After Midnight — no, really), is of course the man with a claim on the money.

A.O. Scott, New York Times: The specter of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a deadpan sociopath with a funny haircut, will feed many a nightmare, but the most lasting impression left by this film is likely to be the deep satisfaction that comes from witnessing the nearly perfect execution of a difficult task.

Scott Foundas, Village Voice: In an early scene, we've seen this tall, saucer-eyed man with the Cousin Itt haircut and indeterminate accent escape from police custody by drawing a naive deputy sheriff into a choke-hold pas de deux that turns the precinct's linoleum floor into an abstract frieze of scuff marks and sinew.

Ray Bennett, Hollywood Reporter: Leading the chase is Chigurh, a man of perhaps East European extraction, who carries a tank of compressed air attached to the kind of bolt gun used to slaughter cattle.

James Berardinelli, Reelviews: Javier Bardem is unforgettable with his shoulder length mane of dark hair, his remorseless expression, and his ever-present high-pressure air gun.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: Bardem, with pale skin and the world's worst haircut, is stupendous in the role, a monster for the ages.

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: Javier Bardem, who memorably inhabits Chigurh, makes the killing device an extension of his own tetched psyche. No less strange is the character's Dutch boy haircut, weighing down on its owner like a bad joke.

Kenneth Turan, L.A. Times: With a sickly vampire's complexion, an unpronounceable name and an inexplicable Buster Brown hairdo, Anton Chigurh is literally a person who would as soon kill you as look at you.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: Chigurh ( Javier Bardem) is a tall, slouching man with lank, black hair and a terrifying smile, who travels through Texas carrying a tank of compressed air and killing people with a cattle stungun.

Harris Feinsod lives in San Francisco, where he is working on a Ph.D. in comparative literature. His recent work has appeared in Telos and his translations of Rodolfo Hinostroza can be found in CapGun 2. This is his first appearance in these pages.

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Reader Comments (15)

Thank you for this brilliant deconstruction of what is wrong with today's book/film review industry. I am continually shocked by the amount of overlap between review texts, though I suppose by this point my continuing ability to be shocked speaks not of the severity of the problem but more to my inexplicable belief that plagiarism isn't a normal mode of operation.

My question is: how exactly does this happen? Is every reviewer reading every other review before he/she writes his/her own review? In this scenario there must, of course, be some kind of "prime-reviewer," one brave, God-like figure who chooses to publish without the comfort of conforming to already existing reviews. Is this prime-reviewer the same person each time? Or do reviewers switch off on making that first terrifying leap? And are all subsequent reviews based directly on that prime-review or do we have a chain of causality, the critic's equivalent of the childhood game of telephone?

Maybe the issue is a different one. Perhaps only a certain type of person writes a film review, and therefore all reviewers share a common mind. This shared mind is one that chooses to focus on Prince Valiant hairdos and the like; each mind generating original content that--through creative forces beyond worldly control--is identical to the rest.

Though my example is out of date, I am reminded of the reviews for Eugenides' Middlesex, where several well-respected critics described the book as the story (or the wandering or the ride) of a gene. (Even more embarrassingly, several reviews were titled using some variation of the then-popular movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding simply because the book involved Greeks, but I'll overlook that.) This trite and inaccurate gene-based description of the book also appeared in the book's dust jacket. I suppose in a country where the government so ably spoon-feeds talking points to newspaper journalists, I should not be surprised when book publishers do the same thing with newspaper critics.

November 13, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjeff

Or maybe it's a case of everyone looking at an elephant and calling it an elephant.

November 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Phipps

I, too, was noticing an unprecedented amount of print on the hair cut of the character. Thanks for "deconstructing" it, to quote (and attribute) the previous commenter.

Note to self: do not get this hair cut.

November 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAireanne

I'd just like to add: I've always considered Keith Phipps to be the Prime-Reviewer.

Well, if not THE Prime-Reviewer, then at least A Prime-Reviewer.

November 14, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjeff

[...] descended into making out with the locals on every movie set, who of course steals the show with his dapper haircut and even more badass soundless killing cattle [...]

[...] Harris Feinsod valiantly tries to describe Javier Bardem’s haircut in No Country For Old Men. [...]

[...] wardrobe) and looking remarkably refreshed for someone who has shot a movie, celebrated with Javier Bardem—her frequent costar and most recent rumored lover—at a weekend of rock concerts in London, been [...]

[...] sure to consider the villain Anton Chirgurh’s (Javier Bardem) air gun in light of the Sheriff’s story about how they used to slaughter [...]

No Haircut For Old Men

I realize that your point was about the lack of originality in journalism, and not Bardem's haircut itself. However, I am so annoyed by all the criticism of this haircut that I simply must respond to it somewhere. Let me say that I just *LOVE* that haircut, especially on an attractive young man. I came of age in the sixties, when longer hair and even bangs were quite common on young men, and it definitely gives a softer and more appealing appearance to the face, in my opinion. Many sixties icons cut their hair shorter as they got older, but the page boy cut (or "Prince Valiant" or whatever) can still look good on young men. That haircut is similar to one that rock superstar Jack White has worn on occasion; and I don't recall anyone complaining about how it looked on him. It's all in the eye of the beholder, I guess.

February 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDee

[...] descended into making out with the locals on every movie set, who of course steals the show with his dapper haircut and even more badass soundless killing cattle [...]

[...] Harris Feinsod valiantly tries to describe Javier Bardem’s haircut in No Country For Old Men. [...]

[...] hair makes the man in No Country for Old [...]

[...] hair makes the man in No Country for Old [...]

[...] arbitrary, implacable nature of human darkness from Nicholson’s gender politics (or Bardem’s inverted Prince Valiant or Ulrich Muhe’s Stasi pathos) than I do from anything Heather Ledger enacts in Dark Knight. [...]

It's likely they all simply got the reference from the same publicity material the studio circulated for the film. The lazier the writer, the more likely they are to parrot the press releases.

This laziness also comes into play in most modern journalism, which has basically become a transcription service. That's why every news anchor and commentator on every network uses the same key words and phrases in their reports.

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJH

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