Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis opened in Berlin on December 5th.
The Coen brothers are of an age now to reflect on life’s dissatisfactions. As the distant strains of Mozart’s Requiem usher in a movie about a folk singer trying to break through the 1960s Greenwich Village scene, their maturity manifests itself as decidedly melancholy – undercut by comedic irony. It’s personified by the figure of Llewyn Davis (Isaac), a singer strolling his guitar around the superbly observed frigidity of a New York winter, seeking warmth and appreciation in clubs and on couches as he ponders some life choices.
In a movie about spectacle (Debordian tones of life versus representation follow Davis’ attempts to keep it real), the spectator is paramount. Positioned on screen or in front of it, the Coens recruit the spectator as audience and friend, appreciating (as do Davis’ film friends, played by Mulligan and Timberlake) the singer’s talents whilst struggling with his abrasiveness, or laughing at but also with him as he does session work on some heinous ditty. With narrow Village streets offset by the gloomy vistas of a brief winter road trip, an inspirational soundtrack and perfecting touches such as a literal “running gag” cat, the mature Coens have mastered both harmony and counterpoint. Genius indeed.
Inside Llewyn Davis | Directed by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (USA 2013) with Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake. Starts December 5
Originally published in issue #122, December 2013.