OKAY, IT'S 1985. There's this guy who's kind of sweet. So I take him to a movie. From what I've heard, this movie will provide me with the most basic form of the Test Date, equivalent to ordering a pizza with or without anchovies, to riding the Ferris wheel or not. (More advanced forms of Test Dates require doing projects or experiencing danger together.) It's not that I'm immensely proud of my appetite for comic violence, I just want to know where we stand.

The movie, of course, was the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple, and it was a humdinger. The comic noir is a form as constrained as a French farce, although less cruel. We have no one with whom to sympathize; everyone is suspect, everyone is corrupt. If we identify with anything, it's the raking light, the distant, heartless music, the hollow sound of footsteps. The Brothers C brought their own exquisite sense of timing to the form, as well as a gift for words--without the words, it's just a noir, not comic. They assembled a terrific cast. It was our first sight of Frances McDormand, the indie Streep, who can imbue the simple act of waking up with complexity. Dan Hedaya, a great face actor (that Nixonian pout!) proved to be a great body actor too; the contrast of his glowering bulk with McDormand's snaky fragility is the emotional springboard for the film. But above all, there's M. Emmet Walsh. He lets bugs crawl on his big flat face; he rearranges his belly over his slender, flexible legs; and he has a high, evil wheeze of a laugh. In a long and glorious career, he's never surpassed his work in Blood Simple.

So did the guy like it? No he did not. And yet. "Reader, I married him." He liked Raising Arizona up till the last 15 minutes. He hated Miller's Crossing. I didn't even try Barton Fink. Fargo? Are you kidding? I'm really excited about the mini-retrospective at the Egyptian. Luckily, I love going to movies alone.

Barley Blair is the pseudonym of a little old lady who eats anchovies but does not ride the Ferris wheel.