The trailer for Joel and Ethan Coen’s new six-part Western anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs shoots from the hip with piercing meta-commentary: “People are so easily distracted,” says a mustachioed man who’s buttering up the audience. “So I’m the distractor with a little story. People can’t get enough of them because people connect the stories to themselves, I suppose, and we all love hearing about ourselves so long as the people in the stories are us ... but not us.”
Perhaps we are all Buster Scruggs? The trailer doesn’t give much in the way of legend or legacy, so it’s anyone’s guess, but it does tease the many characters who populate the violent Old West of the Coens’ interconnected film. Right in line with films like True Grit, No Country for Old Men, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and even Raising Arizona, the new movie employs the Coens’ patented blend of cheeky humor and dire consequence that have defined their filmography for over 30 years. Plus, the soundtrack slaps.
Netflix describes The Ballad of Buster Scruggs as “a series of tales about the American frontier told through the unique and incomparable voice of Joel and Ethan Coen. Each chapter tells a distinct story about the American West” and touts a stacked cast, including James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Tyne Daly, Bill Heck, Grainger Hines, Zoe Kazan, Harry Melling, Liam Neeson, Jonjo O’Neill, Chelcie Ross, Saul Rubinek, Tom Waits, Clancy Brown, Jefferson Mays, Stephen Root, Willie Watson, and Tim Blake Nelson as the title character.
When Netflix first announced the deal with the Coens, it sounded as if Buster Scruggs would mark the brothers’ foray into episodic television. But after debuting as a complete film at this year’s Venice Film Festival, and with a theatrical run booked for later this year, fans of the duo may get a chance to see both full and fragmented versions.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs arrives in all forms on Nov. 16.