Friday, December 20, 2013


Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis official site Before the Internet and Youtube, it seems the only places for a musician to be heard are smoky night cafes before he or she can make it big. That's exactly the setting in the opening scene of despondent yet aesthetic "Inside Llewyn Davis" (USA 2013 | 105 min.), the latest film from brilliant auteur brothers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. The film follows a struggling folk musician named Llewyn Davis over the period about a week. Although Llewyn Davis is a purely fictional character, the film vividly portrays him with remarkable authenticity and originality as if Llewyn Davis must be a real musician back in the 1960s.

At the opening of the film, sitting in a small cafe in New York City's Greenwich Village, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) beautifully sings dolorous melody "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" in its entirety. That immediately tells us that he is a talent folk musician.

Then of course, like a young artist in any time period, he can hardly survive. He desperately looks for a breakthrough gig, while couch-surfing among his friends. When he stays with kind hearted the Gorfeins (Ethan Phillips and Robin Barrett), he lets their cat escape the apartment. When he crashes with his old fling and fellow folk musician, Jean (Carey Mulligan), he is scolded for getting her pregnant. When he sleeps in his nephew's bed at his resentful sister's place, he is lectured to be more responsible while his belongings are thrown out of the house.

Llewyn's life is as cold as the winter in New York City, but he is not giving up yet. He hitchhikes to Chicago and auditions at Bud Grossman's (F. Murray Abraham) folk club Gate Horn. But Bud plainly tells Llewyn: "I don't see a lot of money here."

That marks the end of Llewyn's trying quest as far as his music career goes. But as a rich and fascinating character, Llewyn's legacy lives on, thanks to the Coen brothers.

Inside Llewyn Davis Official Site

If you are familiar with folk music or the New York City scenes in the '60s, or if you are a musician yourself trying to make it, you may feel more connected to the film. But even you are not, the film's arresting characters, superb cinematography, touching music, great performance, and striking originality are simply irresistible.

Even the casting for supporting roles is surprisingly delightful. Those supporting actors all seem to have a distinct and memorable facial or voice feature in addition to their personalities. Besides John Goodman's excellent performance as an arrogant jazz musician, who would forget Sylvia Kauders's marvelous act as the sarcastic Ginny, the secretary of Llewyn's label manager Mel Novikoff (Jerry Grayson)?

The film already won Grand Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival. It is surely going to march on during this award season as a triumphant creation from the Coen brothers.

Would it be easier if Llewyn Davis were trying to make it today with Youtube and the Internet at reach? According to "Inside Llewyn Davis," the answer is no.

"Inside Llewyn Davis," a CBS Films release, opens on Friday, December 20, 2013 in San Francisco Bay Area.

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