Burn After Reading (Celebrating Adam Nayman's new book "The Coen Brothers" with Abrams Books & the author in person!)
- Mon Sep 24
Midnite weekend screenings happen on Friday & Saturday nights (meaning arrive on Friday and/or Saturday night by 11:45pm for seating, the movie starts after midnite)!
Nitehawk celebrates Adam Nayman's new book "The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together" with Abrams Books and a screening of "Burn After Reading." Nayman will be here to discuss his film with Violet Lucca (Film Comment, Harpers) and copies of the book will be available for purchase!
Director: Joel Coen Run Time: 96 min. Format: 35mm Rating: R
Release Year: 2008
Starring: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton
“The Russians? Are you sure?”
Released in 2008, on the heels of the Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men, Burn After Reading was received as a glossy oddity in the Coens’ filmography: a send up of 70s spy thrillers that also satirized its characters’ hopelessly anachronistic attitudes towards 21st century cloak-and-dagger realities.
In a post-Iraq zeitgeist, the idea of opportunistic Americans peddling state secrets to the former Evil Empire was meant as a joke, but a decade later, the film’s thawed-out-Cold War comedy looks prescient and downright trenchant; the “league of morons” envisioned by John Malkovich’s career spook has become not an exaggerated metaphor for our current political situation but a conceptual Trump card as radical as reality itself. Fleetly paced, supremely mean-spirited and exceptionally well-performed by a group of movie-stars-turned-clowns — Brad Pitt’s doomed gym rat is his most sublime characterization — Burn After Reading shows off its creators’ twin gifts for convolution and clarity, topping off its circular plot with a viciously absurdist coda that nods to (and arguably equals) Kubrick’s Strangeloveian misanthropy.
“What did we learn?” asks one CIA higher-up of his superior at the end of a roundelay of adultery, murder, and mistaken identity — the answer, when it comes, is as inevitable, chilling, futile and human as it gets.
For the first time ever, fans will have access to the definitive guide on the filmography of the Academy Award–winning creators the Coen brothers. From such cult hits as Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski to major critical darlings Fargo, No Country for Old Men and Inside Llewyn Davis, Ethan and Joel Coen have cultivated a bleakly comical, instantly recognizable voice in modern American cinema. In “The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together” (Abrams; September 11, 2018; U.S. $40.00; Hardcover), film critic Adam Nayman carefully sifts through their complex cinematic universe in an effort to plot, as he puts it, “some Grand Unified Theory of Coen-ness.”
For this special screening of Burn After Reading, Nayman will discuss the film and its strange, Trump-era urgency with Harpers digital editor Violet Lucca; copies of the books will be available for purchase on-site and Adam will sign copies as well.
Adam Nayman is a contributing editor for Cinema Scope and writes on film for The Ringer, Sight and Sound, Reverse Shot and Little White Lies. He has written books on Showgirls and the films of Ben Wheatley, and lectures on cinema and journalism at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University.