O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), directed by Joel and Ethan Coen Chocolat (2000), directed by Lasse Hallström
Joel and Ethan Coen came up with a strange concept for O Brother, Where Art Thou?: they took major elements of Homer's Odyssey and set them in the Depression-era South. George Clooney's character is named Ulysses, the cyclops is represented by a Bible salesman with a patch over one eye, a blind seer comes along on a handcar, and of course, there are three bathing sirens.
Like the Odyssey, the film is episodic. A flimsy plot is used to hang together ten- to 15-minute stories that are for the most part dropped as soon as they are finished. This style can make for a compelling film (like last year's Jesus' Son), but the individual stories must be powerful. In O Brother, the odds of that are about even.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).