At Pop City, we're passionate about highlighting and celebrating Pittsburgh's cultural assets, especially those tucked away into one of the city's most successful homegrown business corridors.
Lawrenceville's latest draw is a two-in-one dream team at 4115 Butler Street: Row House Cinema, a single-screen revival movie theater, and Atlas Bottle Works, an expertly curated craft beer bottle shop. The joint venture personifies the ways in which Pittsburgh's many business districts are transforming with the help of inventive reinvestment. And with the impending arrival of Smoke Taqueria under the same roof-- forming a holy triumvirate of beer, movies, and tacos-- Pop City decided to get involved and support cultural programming at this new anchor establishment.
We're excited to unveil
Pop City Presents at Row House Cinema, a (hopefully) recurring event where we pick a film that corresponds with the theater's movie of the week and pair it with a delicious beer that reflects that theme. Our inagural run takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 during the first day of Row House's Coen Brothers Movie Festival. We'll pair the cinematic legends' first feature film-- the hypnotically stylish prairie noir Blood Simple
-- with Troegs' Hop Knife Harvest Ale: an American IPA with citrus, resin and tropical aromas. As for Hop Knife tying into Blood Simple? For those who haven't seen the film, explaining their connection would definitely constitute spoilers. Suffice it to say: A knife plays a significant, bloody role.
For any self-respecting movie buff, a deep dive into the Coen brother's oeuvre is a serious rite of passage. The pair is up there with contemporary film school favorites like Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh and Terrance Malick. And while the Coens could be considered remarkable for their consistency over their 30-year career, their early work is a stunning run of films with an expert combination of vision, technical proficiency and peerless writing craft. The 1-2-3 punch that brought them worldwide critical acclaim-- 1987’s Raising Arizona,
1990’s Miller’s Crossing
, and 1991’s Barton Fink
-- has seemed, in hindisght, to eclispe their stunning debut, Blood Simple
Filmed in Texas for $700,000 in 1984, Blood Simple
is a small, brutal, and incredibly stylish neo noir with a title ripped from Dashil Hammet’s famous novel Red Harvest
. Ruthless in its plot construction, Blood SImple
has no qualms about grubbing around in the sticky web of consequences from a series of trecherous decisions. John Getz and Frances McDormand (in her feature film debut) play Ray and Abby, an adulterous couple who have fallen into bed together behind the back of Marty (Dan Hedaya), Abby’s husband and Ray’s boss. Marty quickly uncovers the affair after he hires a slithery, sweaty private investigator (M. Emmet Walsh). An unfortunate series of events unfolds involving $10,000, a revolver, a hunting knife and a corpse that won't seem to stay dead.
While the edges of the film occasionally seem amateurish, the Coens show a preternatural understanding of what would become their signature style: labyrinthe plotting, stylized dialogue, inventive cinematography, horror-movie tropes in unexpected places, and an eccentric streak of wry humor spiked with horrific violence. Sequences in this movie have stayed with me for over 10 years, dating back to my first viewing as a high-school sophomore.
Watching it again recently, I was struck by the film’s hypnotic pull as the plot inexorably stalks toward its shocking conclusion. Blood Simple
has endured because its events, and they way they're presented, seem almost cosmically preordained; one bad decision turns into a misunderstanding, which evolves into a panic, and then a gun is fired, a pool of blood appears, and so on. But most importantly, Blood Simple
does more than show the early promise of two legendary filmmakers; it showed the world what a "Coen Brothers film" could be, and why everyone should pay attention. (4115 Butler Street, Lawrenceville, Row House Cinema)