The Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Gets a Cast and a Synopsis

August 31, 2018
The Coens are goin' out west with Tom Waits and a posse of other notable varmints. *spits tobacco*

It began life as a six part Netflix series, but now Joel and Ethan Coen (c’mon, you know those guys…) have transmogrified their new Western, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, into an anthology feature. There’ll still be six stories, they just won’t be an hour long each, because the Coens understand the value of brevity. Unlike, say, the good folks behind the Netflix Marvel offerings.

Anyway, ahead of the film’s debut at the Venice Film Festival, an impressive cast list has dropped. The Coens have never been slack about attracting top acting talent to their projects, but this latest is one for the books:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs 
Tim Blake Nelson (Buster Scruggs)
Willie Watson (The Kid)

Near Algodones
James Franco (Cowboy)

Meal Ticket
Liam Neeson (Impresario)
Harry Melling (Artist)

All Gold Canyon
Tom Waits (Prospector)

The Gal Who Got Rattled
Bill Heck (Billy Knapp)
Zoe Kazan (Alice Longabaugh)
Grainger Hines (Mr. Arthur)

The Mortal Remains
Brendan Gleeson (Irishman)
Tyne Daly (Lady)
Jonjo O’Neill (Englishman)
Saul Rubinek (Frenchman)
Chelcie Ross (Trapper)

The BFI Film Festival also has a rather loquacious synopsis:

“If you want to fathom the bottomless well that is the Coens’ imagination, look no further. As storytelling goes, this is wildly idiosyncratic, undeniably hilarious and often touchingly melancholic – a cinema-brio study of the American West. Every delectable chapter presents a different story from the wild frontier, with tone and style perfectly calibrated for each tale.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs finds Tim Blake Nelson playing a sharp-shooting songster. In Near Algodones, James Franco’s wannabe bank robber gets his due and then some. And just a little bit more for good measure. Lugubrious dark humour pervades the Liam Neeson starrer Meal Ticket, a gothic tale about two weary travelling performers. Tom Waits mines a rich seam of humour in All Gold Canyon, while Zoe Kazan finds an unexpected promise of love, along with a dose of life’s cruel irony, on a wagon train across the prairies in The Gal Who Got Rattled. Finally, ghostly laughs haunt The Mortal Remains as Tyne Daly rains judgment upon a motley crew of strangers undertaking a final carriage ride.

“Exquisitely shot by Bruno Delbonnel and intricately designed by Jess Gonchor (with art department contributing stunning colour plate intertitles that introduce each sequence), this is one for true connoisseurs. Bedtime stories for cinema lovers.”

Barring some kind of theatrical Hail Mary, expect The Ballad of Buster Scruggs on Netflix from November 16, 2018.




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