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O Brother Where Art Thou? [Blu-ray] 
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The Coen Brothers own unique take on Homer's Odyssey sets the action in 1930s Mississippi, where three clueless convicts escape a chain gang and go in search of buried treasure. This leads to a series of unlikely adventures - involving one-eyed con-men, seductive sirens and Ku Klux Klan lynchings - which culminate with the boys inadvertently discovering fame as hit recording artists The Soggy Bottom Boys. Starring George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson as the hapless heroes, and featuring a soundtrack jam-packed with American folk standards, 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' takes its title from the film-within-a-film in Preston Sturges' 1941 classic 'Sullivan's Travels'.
Only Joel and Ethan Coen, masters of quirky and ultra-stylish genre subversion, would dare nick the plotline of Homer's Odyssey for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, their comic picaresque saga about three cons on the run in 1930s Mississippi. Our wandering hero in this case is one Ulysses Everett McGill, a slick-tongued wise guy with a thing for hair pomade (George Clooney, blithely sending up his own dapper image) who talks his chain-gang buddies (Coen-movie regular John Turturro and newcomer Tim Blake Nelson) to light out after some buried loot he claims to know of. En route they come up against a prophetic blind man on a railroad truck, a burly one-eyed baddie (the ever-magnificent John Goodman), a trio of sexy singing ladies, a blues guitarist who's sold his soul to the devil, a brace of crooked politicos on the stump, a manic-depressive bank robber, and--well, you get the idea. Into this, their most relaxed film yet, the Coens have tossed a beguiling ragbag of inconsequential situations, a wealth of looping, left-field dialogue and a whole stash of gags both verbal and visual. O Brother (the title's lifted from Preston Sturges' classic 1941 comedy Sullivan's Travels) is furthermore graced with glowing, burnished photography from Roger Deakins and a masterly soundtrack from T-Bone Burnett that pays loving homage to American 30s folk-styles: blues, gospel, bluegrass, jazz and more. And just to prove that the brothers haven't lost their knack for bad-taste humour, we get a Ku Klux Klan rally choreographed like something between a Nuremberg rally and a Busby Berkeley musical. --Philip Kemp
On the DVD: This two-disc set duplicates the original single-disc release of the film which included a handful of cast and crew interviews, and adds an additional disc with more interviews, two brief behind-the-scenes featurettes about the production design and the post-production digital colouring of the film, a couple of storyboard-to-scene comparisons and a music video of "Man of Constant Sorrow". There's also a 16-minute documentary to promote the companion Down from the Mountain concert. Frankly there's not a lot here to justify spreading it across two discs: a more pleasing not to say generous offering would have been to cram all these extras onto Disc 1 and give us Down from the Mountain as the second disc. --Mark Walker --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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