Thanks to Variety, we know what the Coen Brothers will be doing after they wrap the Burn After Reading follow-up A Serious Man*: they’ll adapt Michael Chabon’s acclaimed novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.
The plot, from Amazon and Publisher’s Weekly:
…what if, as Franklin Roosevelt proposed on the eve of World War II, a temporary Jewish settlement had been established on the Alaska panhandle? Israel failed to get a foothold in the Middle East, and since the Sitka solution was only temporary, Alaskan Jews are about to lose their cold homeland. The book’s timeless refrain: “It’s a strange time to be a Jew.”Into this world arrives Chabon’s Chandler-ready hero, Meyer Landsman, a drunken rogue cop who wakes in a flophouse to find that one of his neighbors has been murdered. With his half-Tlingit, half-Jewish partner and his sexy-tough boss, who happens also to be his ex-wife, Landsman investigates a fascinating underworld of Orthodox black-hat gangs and crime-lord rabbis.
Here’s what I like about this project: it’s a Coen Brothers adaptation of a Michael Chabon novel. One I haven’t read, I’ll admit, but that’s neither here nor there. No Country For Old Men demonstrated a refined skill for cutting through to the meat of a story, and I hope that the Coens can address the problems some have observed in the last section of Yiddish just as skillfully. Plus, a return to the hardboiled sensibility that made Miller’s Crossing one of my all-time favorites might result in a delicious new film.
And yet I can’t say I’m not at least somewhat sorry to see the old Coen Brothers fading away. You might know what I’m thinking of — the filmmakers who could come at a novel or existing concept sideways so as to adapt it perfectly without looking like they were filming anything but their own pure ideas.
Call No Country an example of a more straightforward attack, sure, and feel free to take the efforts of someone like Cronenberg as a positive indicator when discussing director(s) who move from their own material to adapted efforts. Furthermore, from what I can glean Chabon’s novel creates just as authentic a world as that of McCarthy’s book, if more meticulously detailed and slightly more tweaked.
How about I just shut up and we wait to see what Burn After Reading holds, first? Between that and A Serious Man that’s two original-ish scripts, so hopefully I’m worried about a pattern or tendency that doesn’t actually exist.
Scott Rudin, producer of Wonderboys, is on this project too; if his Kavalier and Clay adaptation comes to fruition with Paramount that’ll be three for three with Rudin and Chabon. Rudin just can’t eat up that modern lit fast enough.
*Variety calls it A Serious Man; other sources refer to it as The Serious Man.