Set in 1941, a newly successful New York playwright accepts an offer to write movie scripts in LA, and finds himself with writer’s block when required to do a B-movie wrestling script, the only relief coming from a traveling salesman living next door.
When Roman Polanski, president of the Cannes Film Festival jury, announced that Joel and Ethan Coen had won the best-director prize for “Barton Fink,” the knowing crowd in the Palais du Festival assumed that was all “Barton Fink” would win. Cannes is not like the Oscars; sweeps don’t happen here; the awards are spread around with the political sensitivity of a U.N. negotiation. So later, when John Turturro took the best actor trophy as the title character in the Coens’ dark comedy, a buzz of surprise went round the hall. Then the unprecedented occurred: the festival’s big prize, the Palme d’Or, also went to “Barton Fink,” the first time in Cannes’s 44 years that three top honors had gone to the same film. The first film to win all three major awards (Palme D’or, Best Director, and Best Actor) at the Cannes Film Festival. Also, it was unanimously chosen for the Palme D’or. Written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen after a trip to see Baby Boom while suffering writer’s block writing Miller’s Crossing. The title of Barton Fink’s play ‘Bare Ruined Choirs’ is from William Shakespeare’s Sonnet #73, the first 4 lines of which are “That time of year thou mayest in me behold, When yellow leaves or none or few do hang, Upon those boughs that shake against the cold, Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet bird sang”.