Khaleej Times - City Times

Ethan Coen on his Jerry Lee Lewis doc and filmmaking return

The film is a blistering portrait of the rock ‘n’ roll and country legend, made almost entirely with archival footage

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Most in the film industry thought Ethan Coen was done with making movies. Ethan did, too.

But on Sunday, Coen premiered his first documentar­y, Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind, at the Cannes Film Festival, a movie that was unknown until last month’s festival lineup announceme­nt. The film is a blistering portrait of the rock ‘n’ roll and country legend, made almost entirely with archival footage, with riveting extended performanc­es instead of talking heads.

It’s Coen’s first film without his brother Joel, with whom he for three decades formed one of the movies’ most cohesive and unshakable partnershi­ps.

Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind started with their longtime collaborat­or Tbone Burnett, who in 2019 recorded a gospel album with the 86-year-old Lewis. The film, as Coen and his wife, film editor Tricia Cooke noted in an interview ahead of their Cannes premiere, touches on some of the more complicate­d parts of Lewis’s legacy. (He married his 13-yearold cousin in his early 20s, Lewis’ then third marriage.) But it mostly brings alive the staggering force of the musical dynamo behind Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Great Balls of Fire and Me and Bobby Mcgee.

Many thought you, Ethan, were no longer interested in moviemakin­g. What changed? COEN: What changed is I started getting bored. I was with Trish in New York at the beginning of the lockdown. So, you know, it was all a little scary and claustroph­obic. And Tbone Burnett, our friend of many years, approached us — actually, more Trish than me — to ask if we wanted to make this movie basically on archival footage. We could do it at home.

COOKE: It was like a home movie project. We’re both huge fans of his music. I had some issues with other parts of Jerry Lee’s life. I was like, “I don’t know if I want to touch that.” But it ended up being a lot of fun. Honestly, T-bone came to us like two weeks into the pandemic, so it was a life saver.

What was it that had sapped your desire to make movies? COEN: Oh, nothing happened, certainly nothing dramatic. You start out when you’re a kid and you want to make a movie. Everything’s enthusiasm and gung-ho, let’s go make a movie. And the first movie is just loads of fun. And then the second movie is loads of fun, almost as much fun as the first. And after 30 years, not that it’s no fun, but it’s more of a job than it had been. Joel kind of felt the same way but not to the extent that I did. It’s an inevitable by-product of aging. And the last two movies we made, me and Joel together, were really difficult in terms of production. I mean, really difficult. So if you don’t have to do it, you go at a certain point: Why am I doing this?

COOKE: Too many Westerns.

COEN: It was just getting a little old and difficult.

When you say “difficult,” did it have to do with the ecosystem of the industry?

COEN: Not at all, though that’s obviously changed from beyond recognitio­n from where we started at. But, no, it was the production experience and having been doing it for — I don’t know how many years, maybe 35 years. It was the experience of making a movie. More of a grind and less fun.

Did you always conceive of Trouble in Mind as archival-based, no talking heads?

COEN: The movie has a history preceding our involvemen­t. It was originally conceived as being more on the gospel session T-bone produced with Jerry Lee in 2019. Along the way, they compiled a lot of archival footage. The archival footage kept piling up. It seemed to make more sense to make it about Jerry Lee than this particular session. We pushed it maybe even further that way.

COOKE: When T-bone brought it to us initially he described what he wanted as a tone poem. I don’t think we did that. (laughs)

COEN: Yeah, that sounds a little fruity.

COOKE: But we did from the beginning not want just a bunch of talking heads, especially if they weren’t Jerry Lee’s.

COEN: T-bone was explicit about wanting the movie to start with that performanc­e on The Ed Sullivan Show of She Woke Me Up to Say Good

 ?? ?? Filmmaker Ethan Coen premiered his documentar­y ‘Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind’ at Cannes 2022
Filmmaker Ethan Coen premiered his documentar­y ‘Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind’ at Cannes 2022
 ?? ?? Coen and wife Tricia Cooke in a file photo from the Cannes Fest in 2015
Coen and wife Tricia Cooke in a file photo from the Cannes Fest in 2015

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