The Coen brothers journey home to film their next feature

Chandler Clemens

If you’ve seen the 1996 film Fargo then you know who the Coen Brothers are. They’re the one’s who stereotyped Minnesotans for over-accenting ‘Yah’ and ‘You betcha’ and making us all sound like happy-go-lucky morons. But, Fargo was nonetheless a masterpiece of the modern crime dramedy and a timeless classic to many Minnesotans.

Twelve years later and a few Oscars along the way (thanks to 2007’s No Country for Old Men for which they won awards both for directing and writing), the Coen Brothers are returning to their native state once again to capture a new side of Minnesota: life in the 60s. The latest collaboration by the two St. Louis Park natives is called A Serious Man. It portrays the tale of a Jewish professor who finds himself in an existential dilemma regarding his money-stealing daughter, his pothead son, the temptress next door who sunbathes nude, his wife’s decision to divorce him, and his lazy brother who lives with the family. Through a string of unlikely Coenesque situations and wackiness, he seeks the advice of three individual rabbis who guide him along a path to enlightenment.

The film is supposed to be set in St. Louis Park, but in order to achieve the look of a 1960s setting, they had to scout out additional locations in Bloomington, St. Paul, Minneapolis and St. Olaf College. Shooting was supposed to commence this March, but was delayed until September 8 when actual shooting did start at the Key’s Cafe in Roseville. The cafe was made over, said owner of Key’s Cafe, Jean Hunn. “It fit the retro format…They changed the layout of the restaurant to work best with their shots.”

Changing chairs, adding retro-lighting from 1967, and mounting slabs of yellow and green plywood to her walls was not a hindrance to Hunn. She welcomed their vision and helped assist them with many of their needs including playing caterer to the 60 plus extras around the location. “We had 60 to 70 extras eating our food during breaks in full 60s getup,” said Hunn.

Key’s Cafe was just one of the locales of shooting; the Coen Brothers also filmed on various residential streets in St. Paul such as Rice Street and even turned the entranceway of an undisclosed cemetery into the front of a country club.

The brothers will continue shooting through October and have slated A Serious Man for a 2009 release, which will mark their third release in a row after this year’s applauded Burn After Reading and last year’s No Country for Old Men. Touching on the subject of dealing with the famed Coen Brothers, Hunn said they were “very approachable, very respectful, but all business.” While the Coen Brothers may be serious men when it comes to making motion pictures, the back lots of Hollywood can’t replace the streets they roamed in a place where pink slippers are the state flower and “darn-tootin” is actually a phrase.