So how silly is it gasbagging about a movie you haven’t seen based on a book you haven’t read? Since that’s approximately where I’m at vis-a-vis Joel and Ethan Coen‘s No Country for Old Men, adapted from a Cormac McCarthy novel of no particular distinction, at least if you trust what the literary rags tell you. But already we’ve been inundated from all sides as the national release date approaches (11/9), and preliminary impressions have been formed. Not least from the track records of all the parties concerned—the two sibling filmmakers, the novelist—which, for me anyway, sets anticipations galloping in contradictory directions.

Not because “one’s good, the other isn’t,” but mostly for the mismatched sensibilities and tones. Since why would the Coens, generally irreverent, scattershot types, ever be drawn to the work of someone so resolutely hermetic and austere? “For the characters”—or maybe caricatures, depending on your point of view—is how some critics see it … except McCarthy doesn’t traffic in characters: typically he has oracles, avatars of violence, prophetic mouthpieces raining down perdition. Nothing wrong in that, and within the straitened, minimalist context he almost invariably adopts (in Blood Meridian, The Road, the Border trilogy, etc—every pared-down syllable a discrete “plish” in the silent narrative pool) it manages to work just fine.

But the Coens aren’t minimalists (yes, there’s the highway stripe in Fargo, but still …), so what’s the “creative” connection? Apparently there is one—or so the brothers’ “conversation” with the author in Time (10/18) would lead you to think, though the exact reasons for it seem pretty obscure. Some sample musings:

Cormac McCarthy Days of Heaven is an awfully good movie.
Joel Coen Yeah. Well, he is great, Terry Malick. Really interesting.
CM It’s so strange; I never knew what happened to him. I saw Richard Gere in New Orleans one time, and I said, “What ever happened to Terry Malick?” And he said, “Everybody asks me that.” He said, “I have no idea.” But later on I met Terry. And he just–he just decided that he didn’t want to live that life …
JC One of the great American moviemakers.
CM But Miller’s Crossing is in that category. I don’t want to embarrass you, but that’s just a very, very fine movie.
JC Eh, it’s just a damn rip-off.

Miller’s Crossing? Richard Gere? Some of the things folks tell you you’d rather not know …