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Coen Brothers Confirm Theatrical Release for ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’

The Coen brothers confirmed Friday that Netflix had agreed to a theatrical release for their latest film, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

“Theatrical release was important to us, and they were happy to accommodate us,” Ethan Coen told reporters at the Venice Film Festival. “And I don’t even know if it was to accommodate us or their plans coincided with ours….It’s important to us that people who want to see it on a big screen are able to.”

The anthology Western is having its world premiere on the Lido on Friday. It’s one of six films that Netflix has in Venice, which has embraced the streaming giant in its programming.

The Coens said they made no artistic decisions differently because the movie had the backing of Netflix. Joel Coen said he welcomed “different companies with different business models and different ways that they exploit the product.”

“The fact that there are companies that are financing and making movies outside of the mainstream is very important,” he said. “It’s what keeps the art form alive. So the more the merrier.”

“Buster Scruggs” represents material gathered over a quarter of a century. “The stories were written over a period of 25 years. We would write these short stories and not really know what to do with them and put them in a drawer,” Joel said. “Then we decided to make them all together.”

No single story thread ties the six separate chapters together, which were originally intended for television rather than the big screen.

“I think they are complete when they all live alongside each other,” said actor Harry Melling, who stars in one of the episodes. “They do accumulate in weird and wonderful ways.”

“Even though they were completely different in mood and subject matter and sort of even generically within the sort of loose idea of Westerns, they were all kind of vaguely about the same thing and [we thought] it would be interesting to put them all together,” Joel said. “Nobody’s doing that kind of thing anymore, anthology movies, and we thought it would be kind of fun to bring it back.”

Tim Blake Nelson, who plays the character Buster Scruggs, complimented the Coens on their painstaking attention to detail, evident in the opening chapter, in which Scruggs sings the song “Cool Water.”

“Any filmmaker I’ve ever met…would’ve shot that at one place, and the production would’ve pretty much demanded that, because it’s one song; you shoot that in one place,” he said. “They shot it in three different places over three days, that one song, because of absolutely specific backdrop images that they wanted. It’s that meticulous.”

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