Blood Simple (1984)
The Coens' first feature is undoubtedly style-over-substance, as their meticulously plotted murder mystery unfolds in a detached, almost inhuman Texas atmosphere involving characters who never ask the right questions and instead concern themselves with artificial dialogue. However, the subtler interpersonal aspects is not the point in Blood Simple - a film in which the visuals and nifty technical aspects are the main contributors to the atmospheric, sometimes disquieting effect. The Coens show tons of flair and imagination through numerous cuts and compositions in subdued lighting full of long shadows and dreamy footage, making their film appealing and enticing. Unfortunately, there isn't much dramatic value in the love triangle (especially not the Getz/McDormand-relationship) to give it all the depth and potency it could have had, but that doesn't make the final fifteen minutes of the film less exhilarating. A young and beautiful Frances McDormand is the film's best asset in front of the camera, whereas M. Emmett Walsh' performance verifies Roger Ebert's Walsh/Stanton rule.