The Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou? isn't my favorite film from the directors -- which is really hard to pick -- but it's another example of how diverse their body of work is. Not many filmmakers would tackle an updating of Homer's The Odyssey set in the 1930's, complete with musical numbers and bank robberies. It's a testament to the Coens' skill that they manage to not only pull it off, but create an offbeat and entertaining movie that fits in nicely with the rest of their filmography.
The film as a whole revolves around the strange journey of three escaped convicts: Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), Pete (Coen regular John Turturro), and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson). The unlikely trio escapes from a chain gang, runs into Babyface Nelson and Robert Johnson, and become radio celebrities -- all while on the run from the law. Like Homer's tale, O Brother, Where Art Thou? continually throws one thing after another at our beleagured heroes.
The film boasts some excellent scenes, thanks in no small part to the Coens' direction and some interesting cinematography and art design. However, the film's most mesmerizing moment no doubt comes when the boys encounter three sirens singing on the rocks of a river. The parallel to Homer's work is obvious from the first moments, when Pete leads Everett and Delmar to the river's edge and the men hear the first harmonious sounds of Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby (performed by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch on the soundtrack). By then, it's too late -- they're already under the spell of the three beguiling women.
The sirens (played by Mia Tate, Musetta Vander, and Christy Taylor) are not only seductive singers, they're easy on the eyes too. The trio of men are powerless to resist the literal siren song. They weave their spell on Ulysses, Pete and Delmar by first lullabying them with the tune, then getting up close and personal to finish the deal. It's an amazing scene, charged with a simmering sexuality, yet there's no nudity or even real intimacy on display. It's an old-fashioned, understated, slow-burn seduction sequence and the Coens do it right.
Check out the clip from O Brother, Where Art Thou? below and prepare to be seduced.