My Favorite Scenes #2 – “Danny Boy” Miller’s Crossing

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Has there ever been a better edited, more assured, more compressed array of fantastic shots and build-up and emotion pushed into a 5 minute span? Has there ever been a better, slower burn than this miraculous scene from Miller’s Crossing?
From the slow tracking shot across the dead man, to the cigarette lighting the paper to the pull out from the record player to the immaculately framed bedroom scene to the tips of the guns ascending the stairs, to the feet slipping in the slippers to the stubbing of the cigar: to paraphrase The Joker, “I don’t know if it’s art, but I like it.”
This is is art, though. Of the highest order. It’s the Coens making good on the loopy promise they showed in Blood Simple and Raising Arizona. This is the Coen Brothers stretching as far as they could for their ambition-and reaching it. There isn’t an edit or a camera angle or a reaction out of place. There is nothing more to say, because the brilliance of this scene says everything it needs to. This is an entire operetta, writ large in only 5 perfect minutes of editing, pacing, action, framing, and emotion.
This is the stuff movie dreams are made of.

4 responses »

  1. This usurped the scene I was going to do because of the excellent 1990 movie discussion.

  2. To me, this is where the Coens really hit their stride. Blood Simple was almost straight-up noir, and Raising Arizona was an out-there farce. But Miller’s Crossing is where they hit the middle point that they occupy so well, with the film working as a straight genre film on one hand, a meta commentary on that genre on another, a finely observed character study on another, and then finally a sly comedy on another (they’re brothers so they have four hands).

    I’m not 100% sure that this is even the best scene in the movie, though. The one that I remember first is Turturro begging for his life. There are a lot of things going on in that scene, and in the best Coen fashion, it’s even better and more meaningful on repeat viewings when you know more about exactly what is going on.

  3. The scene you reference most certainly has one of the greatest dissolves in the history of film. Just magnificent. I can’t express enough my admiration and awe for this film.

  4. This is my favourite movie. Not a misstep, not a frame out of place. Pure cinematic art.

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