“Inside Llewyn Davis is a sardonically funny American art film about frustration and wintry despair and the Sisyphusian struggle of a folk singer who’s talented and cares about his art but isn’t good or lucky enough to make it to the next level, and the week-long journey he goes through that takes him from a kind of semi-resigned ‘fuck me’ slumber mentality to an ‘oh, to hell with it…this shit is infuriating…I hate folk music!’ feeling. Bob Dylan, trust me, is going to love this thing. He’s going to effing swear by it.” — posted from Cannes on Sunday, 5.19.
I also wrote that “when it plays before a crowd, Inside Llewyn Davis is a pellet dropped into water. The depth and the delight is in the vegetable dye that spreads out and sinks in, and though obviously emanating from the pellet, da coolness is in the mixture. The Coen Brothers period film, inspired and exquisitely made as it obviously is, is the trigger but not the all of it.
“As Oscar Isaac’s titular character says to Carey Mulligan‘s pregnant, relentlessly pissed-off folk singer at one point, ‘Have you ever heard the expression ‘it takes two to tango’?’ There is a lot of tango-ing going on around Cannes this morning. But don’t expect Inside Llewyn Davis to lift you up like a father lifts a baby and show you all the steps. You’ll have to supply some of your own.”
And this 8.25.12 piece (“Figure It Out…or Don’t”) which alludes to the Coens’ Davis script:
“I need to get rolling on a list of movies that just ‘are.’ Movies that never tip their hand. They stand their ground and make you come to them. Movies that don’t tell stories or ‘pay off’ or build to third-act crescendos or any of the usual stuff. Movies that lay it on the table, that show but don’t tell. Whatever they’re on about, you’ll get little if any help. Either you get it or you don’t.”
Oh, yeah, this too (i.e., my original review):
“Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Inside Llewyn Davis is some kind of brilliantly sombre, wonderfully atmospheric, dryly hilarious, pared-down period masterpiece — a time-tunnel visitation to 1961 Greenwich Village that feels so meditatively right and authentic and resonant that I can’t wait to see it again. I read the script about 14 months ago and I still don’t know what it’s really “about.” Well, I do but the Coens sure as shit don’t spell anything out. But I know a profound American art film when I see it. I know what exquisite less-is-more movie backrubs are all about. I know the real take-it-or-leave-it when I experience it.
“This movie is a treasure — an embarassment of Coen-y riches that doesn’t quite ‘add up’ to anything, certainly not for anyone looking for a character-driven ‘story’ or a conventional ending or any of that jazz. But it does add up to the fact that it’s an embarassment of Coen-y riches. And that’s more than enough for me.
“The basic story is about a not-untalented folkie troubadour slacker named Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) who performs well enough but not quite well enough to make it big, or even bigger. Or even work enough to afford his own place. He’s mainly a hanger-on, a deck-shuffler, a stay-in-placer — a generic one-step-forward, two-steps-backward type of guy. Not a complete unknown, but no vision and no spark and no direction home.
“The movie is primarily about how Llewyn hangs on and gradually arcs his way from feeling dispirited and semi-despondent to feeling out-and-out despair and on the brink of giving up. But the despair that tugs at him is so delicious it’s like ice cream. And the dry and succinct sensibility that informs the Coen’s direction is so richly realized. And the timing of each scene, the perfect acting, the cutting, the magnificently wintry color scheme…I could go on all night.
“I mean, I obviously know what happens and what the faded wintry colors convey and where it all goes but the point, I think, is that Inside Llewyn Davis is not ‘about’ anything except itself. It’s a work of mocking social satire on one level and on another level an extremely sly, austere, sardonic and culturally on-target art pour l’art movie. The Coen’s films have always been less about some kind of precise narrative yield or engaging character turns or what-have-you and more more about (take your pick or choose all) irony, detail, authenticity, perversity, painterly beauty, eccentricity, flair, color, hints, allusions and nothing left to chance.”