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Friday, January 24, 2014

"Inside Llewyn Davis", Cruel Folk

Inside Llewyn Davis

Let's rejoice for a second! The Coen Brothers are back! It's been a long walk through the desert (since 1998 maybe?), and I admit I seriously believed they were gone, at least for me, but here's hope: it's called "Inside Llewyn Davis".

It's a very peculiar, uneasy film, surprisingly cruel and hopeless. Character studies are not new for the Coen Brothers. On the contrary, one can say almost the majority of their films have been very personal trips inside the minds and behaviour of (peculiar?) people. But maybe this is the first time the main character can't live in the real world. Sure, you might be saying out loud, whaaaat? The Coen Brothers have been always dealing with characters willing to live on a surreal, parallel planet where they can be happy, or at least pretend to be. But I'm not referring to that. Llewyn Davis is his most realistic creation, but he's unable to connect with life. Real life. He prefers to keep sabotaging himself.

Llewyn doesn't have any redeeming quality, and throughout the film we follow him on a downward spiral of self-destruction. He's hurt by his past (a past that keeps coming into the conversation but we never see), but foremost he's selfish, irresponsible, unsympathetic, judgmental. He brings misery to himself and the ones surrounding him. And what's worse, he seems to revel in it. The viewer won't have many chances to connect with him. Maybe that's why the directors gave him a cat as his sole companion. A silent, solipsist animal might be the only one who can be with him. They fit.

The contrast between the folk music he plays, where the singer is alone against the public, with a guitar, words as the only arguments is so striking. Folk needs an artist the public can relate to, but Llewyn simply can't. Therefore his career is fated to failure. And failing is what he seem doing, once and again. Doors look open at times, possibility looks plausible in a couple of situations. But he is always his worst enemy.

Dark and tough is also the Greenwich Village the Coen Brothers portray. Glimpses of a community are there, but far from the "peace and love and understanding" tunes we have the image of. But our character can't blame anyone else but himself. Friends like Jean (played by Carey Mulligan in the best role I have seen of her, and with whom he shares more than a secret) and Jim (Justin Timberlake) lend hands, while the Gorfeins (what an incredible scene, so powerful) offer their shelter, but Llewyn ruins it. Secondary roles like musicians Al Cody of Troy Nelson offer a harsh comparison with our starring, where he shows his vanity (some would say his foolishness thinking he is better than the rest, that he deserves to be known), while John Goodman as the eccentric Roland Turner serves well the purpose of bringing some punchy funny lines before making Davis look like the most frustrated (and frustrating) person on Earth.

Actors are excellent, with Oscar Isaac carrying an astonishing weight of the film with his dislocated, gloomy, defeated faces. He is despair, abandon. He is cruel folk (that Duluth singer appearing at the very end is a terrible, glacial joke). A powerful performance being the key of a tight script that leaves the viewer intrigued, going back to this "week in the life" of this condemned young musician looking for answers, details and crucial scenes. An enduring film. Welcome back Ethan and Joel.

SCORE: 7,5/10

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