Friday, December 13, 2013


I was on my way home on an icy day in NYC, after going to art galleries in Chelsea, and decided to pop into a theater and see Joel and Ethan Coen’s INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS.  The wintery weather befitted the mood of this slow, strange, original movie  which left me with a lingering unexplainable feeling of pensive melancholy. I exited the cinema confused and stunned thinking of beginnings, endings, and repeated beginnings, a cycle which spins round and round – “ the times they are a-changin.” Afterwards, I took the bus home to my Greenwich Village apartment - deep in thought - the very locale where in 1961 an aspiring folk-singer named Llewyn Davis attempted to maintain his creative integrity in the face of commercial and personal ambush, often self-inflicted; youth is the period for reckless and self-righteous inquiry as well as outbursts of peevish anger and defiance.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is a road trip with an expressive dark-eyed, bearded Oscar Issac playing the lead character – a young man stumbling along the path he has chosen for himself; a young man determinedly serious about being a folk singer who wants to be taken seriously; a young man who is careless and yet caring, a young man who is finding out about himself and his effect on others with haunting revelations from his past and present shaping future actions. Llewyn’s songs sung in a mellow, resonant voice (arranged by executive music producer T-Bone Burnett} are an audible measure of the depth of the complexity “inside” Llewyn Davis - more so than any of the dialogue he laconically utters.

Communication with family and friends are almost farcical if they were not so ruefully inadequate. The Coen brothers skirt the line of caricature and burlesque when depicting these incidents, lightening the acutely dispiriting ambiance. There are many weirdly compelling bit parts by actors that contribute to the surrealistic mood of the film. One example being John Goodman who is grotesquely sinister, playing a fellow traveler in the claustrophobic atmosphere of an automobile, spraying a frenzy of wildly bizarre dialogue during those staccato moments when he is not “nodding off” from whatever actions he is performing every time he staggers off to the bathroom.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS flows at a pace all its own. A cat by the name of Ulysses flits in and out of various scenes, referencing Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, alluding to the “trials” that our hero must go through to return a changed man to himself. This is also a movie about being an artist, hanging on to one’s own vision in the face of the marketable embrace of mediocrity. The sadness I felt when INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS ended was the bitter shroud of familiarity. 

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