directed by the Coen Brothers
The Coen brothers have never shied away from tackling profundity in a way inimitably Coen. And with Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coens show they still have a lot to say about their legacy as filmmakers and storytellers. Through a kind of bleakly whimsical mobius trip, the story of a struggling folk singer attempting to connect with the world is hilarious at one moment, devastating the next, and mesmerizing throughout. Perpetually aloof, dour, morose, Davis has the chops (and even the life experience Dylan pretended to have) to create wonderful art, but somehow cannot connect with his contemporaries. As he floats from couch to couch, inconveniencing acquaintances to varying degrees, Davis seems lost in the dismal doldrums of creativity. The clouds part (for us, that is) when Davis plays, however, and the superb Oscar Isaac manages to coax the whole world into leaning close as he culls the voices and struggles of lives past into existence in darkened bars and stuffy rooms. It’s a classic and excellently effective Coen tactic, but what spectacularly moving scene in a Coen movie would be complete without a wry reminder at the end that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously (lest we start getting carried away with all this heady pondering)? A prime example: F Murray Abraham’s deadpan delivery of “I don’t see a lot of money, here” is a laugh out loud moment that cuts off a revelatory musical sequence. The musical sequences are truly beautiful, moving scenes that sum up much of Davis’ embattled personae, and serve as kind of thesis for what the Coens have so long been fascinated with: the creation of art in relation to tradition, the process of creating new via the old. This tension between tradition and innovation is evidenced in their strongest works, and Inside Lleweyn Davis is a strong addition to a shockingly formidable body of work.
I’ve been pondering this question for some years, and I always encounter widely varying conclusions when I pose it to other film lovers, so here it goes: What are your top 5 Coen Brothers movies?
My List (in order):
A Serious Man (I should think no Coen film will ever topple its reign).
No Country for Old Men
Inside Llewyn Davis (I think it just usurped Fargo, but I am still mulling this over...)