By Lisa Keddie
VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - Coen brothers fans get six movies for the price of one in "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs", an anthology of Western stories starring, among others, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tyne Daly and Tom Waits.
The movie, by the team that pulled off an acclaimed remake of the John Wayne Western "True Grit" in 2010, had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival this week where it is one of three Netflix movies competing for the Golden Lion.
"In the States it's getting a theatrical release," Ethan Coen told Reuters in an interview when asked how he felt about the movie going onto the streaming service.
"We're movie people and it's important to us that people who want to see it on a big screen are able to do so," said Ethan, who wrote and directed "Buster Scruggs" with brother Joel - a successful creative partnership that goes back 35 years.
"Different companies have different business models and different ways that they exploit the product, but the more there are, the more different ways, it's just that much healthier for the business," said Joel.
Critics gave a cautious thumbs up to the film.
"If you were going to be cynical about it, you might say 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs' is still a Netflix series — it's just one that the Coens are forcing you to binge-watch," said Variety's Owen Gleiberman.
"The movie runs 135 minutes, and since the episodes are uneven in quality (though the best of them seize and hold you), you may feel, at moments, that it's too much of a just-okay thing."
Tim Blake Nelson, who plays the sharpshooting singing cowboy Buster Scruggs, dismissed such criticism.
"First of all, it was always only ever a film, so anybody who's writing that it should have been kept as a TV show, that's an erroneous starting point," he told Reuters.
"This was always only a movie and it was misconstrued because of the word 'Netflix' as something that was episodic and was going to appear on television."
The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw called "Buster Scruggs" "a hilarious, beautifully made, very enjoyable and rather disturbing anthology ... vignettes that switch with stunning force from picturesque sentimentality to grisly violence."
The Venice Film Festival runs to Sept 8.
(Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Ros Russell)