December 29, 2018
‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ unfolds in six parts. Here’s how it was put together.
Anthology films are a tough racket. Not all segments are created equal, and if you start off with the “wrong” one that negatively alters the feng shui of the viewer, it can be tough sailing winning them back. The goal of an anthology film is to present different stories brought together by theme and, as is the case with a structure such as this, favorites will emerge.
The batting average of Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is incredibly high, with six stories tied together by its setting: the early American Frontier. Melancholic and absurd, intense and bucolic, morose and lighthearted, the film is a comedy in which the deliciously oddball, quirk of the Coens intercedes with the very real implications of the American Western. The most successful serve as ruminations on death and mortality; each of the six stories features a body count of some kind.