What movie was that...?

11 January 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis

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...)

2 comments:

  1. First off Happy New Year my friend, glad to know you're still around and kicking!
    Secondly The Coen brothers. I know it's blasphemy but much like Quentin Tarantino I've never really taken much of an interest in them. I tried to watch Fargo back in the day but couldn't get in to it, the same with Intolerable Cruelty.
    The only film they've made that I like is No Country for Old Men which is part of my collection and I do watch it a couple of times a year when it pops up on tv. So it's really a no-contest for my number one.
    I doubt I'll watch Llewyn Davis I am curious to see Blood Simple though.

    Totally unrelated to your post but I did watch a new release for once last weekend in the form of American Hustle. I wondered what you made of that one?
    Take it easy brother.

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  2. Happy New Year to you, brother. Hope 2014 is turning out be a great one.

    As for the blasphemy, I always say the heart loves what it loves. There are plenty of beloved films and filmmakers out there that just don't blow my hair back, and I find myself defending my stance against an onslaught like one defending his home against a wild fire. So count on no judgement from me, good film lover. But Blood Simple is very good...

    As for thoughts on American Hustle, funny you should ask... I watched it a few weeks ago, and I have been sluggish in putting my thoughts on paper. So I will say check back tomorrow.

    Always a pleasure to hear from you, my friend. Any chance of OTRA making an appearance this year? Pretty please?

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