Inside Llewyn Davis reviews

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Re: Inside Llewyn Davis reviews

Postby Johnny Guitar » Tue Jan 21, 2014 9:24 am

I thought this was a very, very good movie, probably one of the Coens' best. It doesn't really have anything substantive to do with folk music, or rather nothing substantive to do with the "authentic" recreation of the early '60s Greenwich Village folk scene. People criticizing the movie for failing to get that right are barking up the wrong tree, and might as well harangue the historical and geographical flourishes of Hudsucker Proxy or Fargo while they're at it. The Coen brothers' wheelhouse involves a lot of very textured pastiche work, and sometimes that arrives at a kind of socio-historical accuracy (e.g. I think that Burn After Reading actually pictures some of the DC area well, and fairly accurately), but other times it's purely a springboard.

All the cat stuff was fantastic - this kind of teasing symbolism or anti-symbolism is great, and the implicit difficulties of shooting a movie with a feline make a lot of the scenes feel particularly poignant, full of unease. The cat might always run away, and that sense of constant loss and failure of responsibility serve as the foundation of the whole movie.

I loved how the Coens kept the song recordings straightforward and intact; I also loved how they undercut the musical aura with crude and deflationary comedy each and every time. It's like a challenge to reverential over-investment. (And is mirrored in the Coens' own career habit of following up dark, critically acclaimed dramas like Fargo or No Country for Old Men with "dumb" comedies.) Oscar Isaac does a good job with the role, too, because Llewyn Davis is a disagreeable character - he's petty, arrogant, and lacks any sense of forethought. And yet that's part of what makes him such a pathetic and even identifiable character, because the precarity of his existence has everything to do with the present day, and anxieties of poverty and image.

Luc Sante comes around to saying something very similar (although of course he says it better). His take on the film, and the way it grapples with history, is really interesting:
http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/20 ... vis-sante/

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Re: Inside Llewyn Davis reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Dec 08, 2013 3:22 pm

Don't have much time for this today but the pairing of Joel & Ethan Coen and DP Bruno Delbonnel is something I want to see repeated. Although the siblings are clearly writing with a reverence and sincerity not common in their productions, the atmosphere just feels different. I think True Grit might have been improved by his style.

I might love this more than any Coens joint since Fargo. This film is written with the same sort of symmetrical events sequencing that made A Serious Man feel Talmudic. Although my comment isn't meant to directly invoke their fascination with Jewish identity, Inside Llewyn Davis is also a strong condemnation of self-loathing jewry. There is a dickishness to Llewyn's performance that makes one wonder if he truly likes music anymore or if the only thing left is his ego's persistence. By the end of the film, he can't even quit and do something else. In such effortless, modest strokes The Coen Brothers encapsulate the energies of the era and only in a rather flabby road trip with an aging jazz ghost and the spirit of Kerouac does it feel forced. I have zero problem overlooking that flaw. A total pleasure.
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Re: Inside Llewyn Davis reviews

Postby Sabin » Sat May 18, 2013 9:18 pm

Owen Gleiberman ranks it in the middle of the Coens' oeuvre, and this is the first splash of cold water I've felt on what has been an afternoon of Llewyn Davis fever. Yes, I'm afraid, I do want to be transported into a Greenwich dream taken seriously.


Cannes 2013: The Coen brothers' 'Inside Llewyn Davis' is a close-to-the-bone tale of the early-'60s New York folk scene, but it is also (what else?) a perverse Coen stunt


Joel and Ethan Coen have never made a movie that didn’t have at least a few big bubbles of perversity percolating through it. That said, one of the ways that I divide their work in my mind is that there are the Coen brothers films in which the perversity stays, for the most part, just below the surface (Blood Simple, Fargo, A Simple Man), which tend to be the Coen brothers movies that I love best. And there are the ones in which perversity stands up and pokes you in the eye (Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, O Brother, Where Art Thou?), which I, for one, have always found tiresome. Their new movie, Inside Llewyn Davis, which premiered tonight at Cannes, is set in the Greenwich Village folk-music scene of the early ’60s, and on the Coen perversity scale, I’d say that it’s right smack dab in the middle in a way that I found far from tiresome — the picture is lovingly crafted, eminently watchable, at times even inspired — yet ultimately frustrating. Inside Llewyn Davis comes just close enough to being an authentic, deep-dish portrait of a vital moment in pop-culture history that I felt a bit of an eye poke when it also turned out to be one of the Coens’ masochistic/misanthropic tall tales.

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a folk musician who looks to be in his late 20s, is the living definition of “struggling,” even though he’s far from a failure. He has a manager/exploiter, Mel (Jerry Grayson), who never pays him, so he’s constantly strapped for cash, and he doesn’t even have an apartment; instead, he crashes on his friends’ couches, just like Phil Ochs did. He’s a talented scrounger, living on the pass-around of the basket after his gigs, really a step away from dereliction. Yet most up-and-coming musicians would kill for a record deal, and Llewyn has already cut and released several albums, one of them with his former singing partner, Mike (they were known as Tiplin & Davis, and their record was called If I Had Wings). Now he’s gone solo, with an album called Inside Llewyn Davis, which is his bid to break out of what he sees as the coffee-house ghetto.

It’s 1961, America has gone folk-crazy, and Llewyn wants to be a star. He might even have what it takes: The movie opens with Llewyn, in dramatic closeup, performing a song at the Gaslight Café, and he’s a terrific singer — direct, emotional, and pure. Oscar Isaac, the Guatamalan-born actor and musician who plays him, has hooded dark eyes set off here by a thick, trim folkie beard and unruly black hair (he looks like Lenny Bruce as a hipster rabbinical student), and he gives Llewyn an earnest, solid, dweeby-sexy, folkie-everyman presence. I was all set to find Llewyn a rich and fascinating character. What he turns out to be, instead, is a major a—-hole. And, courtesy of the Coens, he’s going to get what’s coming to him.

The first hint that Llewyn has a personality as off-putting as his singing is sweet comes just after that opening scene, when he’s called out to the alley in back of the club so that someone can beat the crap out of him (we’re given only a clue as to why, though we find out later). Then he goes over to the apartment of his folkie friends, Jean (Carey Muligan) and Jim (Justin Timberlake), who are a couple. Jean, a very pretty girl in her turtlenecks and ironed hair, reveals to him that she’s pregnant (by either Llewyn or Jim — she’s not sure which), and the everybody’s-sleeping-with-everybody feeling is authentically Village, except that we soon learn that Jean despises Llewyn. Sitting in Washington Square Park, Carey Mulligan plays Jean by letting the anger rip, and she’s gripping, but there’s no second dimension to her hostility. It’s all she’s given to play.

Except…. the Coens stage another scene at the Gaslight, where Troy (the terrific Stark Sands), Jean and Jim’s Army-recruit buddy, is also an aspiring folk singer, and after he beckons Jean and Jim up onto the club stage, they do a version of “500 Miles,” which is one of the most beautiful songs of the last half century, and I’m sorry, maybe the Coens meant this scene to be ironic, or representative of how good-looking vanilla singers like Jean and Jim and Troy blanded out folk music, but I was transported by it.
At this point, I figured that Inside Llewyn Davis just had to be the Coen brothers’ version of a joyful and acerbic folk musical. After all, A Mighty Wind proved that you could mock folk music without mercy and pay rapturous tribute to it at the same time. (That’s the genius — and humanity — of Christopher Guest.) And that feeling only grew when Jim, minus a singer-guitarist, calls Llewyn in at the last minute for a recording session at Columbia Records, and they and two other musicians, including Girls‘ Adam Driver as a singing cowboy who makes novelty noises, record an ebullient satirical number called “Please Mr. Kennedy” (“Please, Mr. Kennedy!/Please don’t shoot me into outer space!”) that’s so scrumptiously catchy and funny and impeccably right for the period that the Cannes audience I saw it with applauded when it was over. I joined in the applause and thought: More, please!

But there is very little more of that. It’s around this point that Inside Llewyn Davis takes a turn, with Llewyn heading out of town for a road trip that devolves into a series of disasters. It’s the beginning of his Big Crash, a downfall precipitated by his own troubled nature: his refusal to connect with anyone, his relentless scavenging, the acting out of his career frustration in scenes of defiant cruelty. The audience gets the message, but at a certain point I wondered: Wow, when did this go from being a movie about folk musicians to an early parable of borderline personality disorder? Given that a lot of musicians who made it were major dicks (which, in many cases, may have been a part of the reason why they made it), it seems churlish of the Coens to set up Llewyn as a gifted and passionate musician who sourly cultivates the seeds of his own failure and therefore deserves to fail.

It seems especially perverse considering that the Coens have brought to life the sleepy bohemian West Village of the just-pre-Dylan ’60s with a spangly authenticity that just about leaps off the screen. There’s now a Mad Men fascination to this era, and the Coens ingeniously employ real locations (including the still-standing espresso-bar relic Caffe Reggio) to evoke downtown New York in 1961, when even the “hottest” parts of the city had a pre-media-culture grayness, and the scuzziness of the apartments — the dingy, peeling-paint rooms and comically narrow hallways — were romantic in their very discomfort. You had to want to be in Greenwich Village, playing folk songs for peanuts (sometimes literally), in order to get up on stage and do it. And Llewyn Davis, though he’s not a nice guy, has that spirit and drive. Why the Coen brothers, who created Llewyn, would then want to spend an entire movie trashing his dream is an issue that I’m sure Coen cultists could (and will) defend. For me, Inside Llewyn Davis is a tantalizing teaser of a movie that only made me hungry to see a folk-music drama that could take the truly audacious risk of total sincerity.
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Re: Inside Llewyn Davis reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat May 18, 2013 7:21 pm

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Re: Inside Llewyn Davis reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat May 18, 2013 5:15 pm

Screen International weighs in.

Based on lots of tweets around the web, folks at Cannes LOVE this movie. Question is whether it's too arcane -- most reaction lumps it with A Serious Man or Barton Fink, not among the teams' commercial successes. But, with enthusiasm running this high, who knows?

And, as someone at Sasha's site put it, you have to figure original screenplay is locked in for the Oscars.


Inside Llewyn Davis

18 May, 2013 | By Tim Grierson

Dirs/scrs: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen. US. 2012. 105mins

A very funny and moving look at a folk artist whose sizable talent always lags behind his personal failings and bad luck, writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis is a companion piece of sorts to A Serious Man, their 2009 comedy-drama in which a decent, ordinary man seemed to have the entire world conspiring against him. The filmmaking duo’s new movie features a protagonist far more flawed and self-defeating, but thanks to a sterling lead performance from Oscar Issac, the Coen brothers have once again delivered an impressively nuanced character study — one that has much to say about art, compromise and all the aspiring hopefuls who never got their moment in the sun.

The pleasure of the Coens’ screenplay is in how it teases out character information about Llewyn, only slowly revealing a full portrait of this driven but also occasionally shortsighted individual.

Premiering in the Official Competition at Cannes, Inside Llewyn Davis will be released in the US on December 6, hoping for Oscar attention. The Coens are coming off their biggest hit with their remake of True Grit, and Inside’s setting (the burgeoning New York folk scene of the 1960s) will no doubt draw comparisons to the filmmakers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which like this new offering was highlighted by a lively soundtrack supervised by musician T-Bone Burnett.

The film takes place in the winter of 1961 as folk singer Llewyn Davis (Isaac) is trying to scrape together a solo career now that his moderately successful duo has ended for reasons that aren’t initially made clear. There’s no question that Davis can write soulful songs, but he can’t shake an impression among his peers that his best work was with his former partner. In the midst of his struggles, he’s also desperately low on money, forced to crash on friends’ couches. If all that wasn’t enough, one of his fellow folk artists, Jean Berkey (Carey Mulligan), tells him that she’s pregnant and that she thinks he’s the father, which is incredibly problematic since she’s married to another man.

Inside Llewyn Davis fits in the Coens’ canon alongside such films as Barton Fink, A Serious Man and The Man Who Wasn’t There, which all revolved around richly conceived central characters who are at a crossroads. The brothers’ new film may feel at times like a musical, spotlighting full performances of rearranged traditional folk songs that are performed by Isaac and others, but Inside Llewyn Davis is also something of a road movie and a redemption story, following along as Llewyn attempts to catch a break as a performer.

The pleasure of the Coens’ screenplay is in how it teases out character information about Llewyn, only slowly revealing a full portrait of this driven but also occasionally shortsighted individual. As played with charm and subdued anger by Isaac, perhaps best known for roles in Drive or Robin Hood, Llewyn is not the typical terrible-person/astounding-performer artist cliché.

Throughout the film, we get a sense of a honourable, disillusioned guy who can’t seem to pull himself together. It’s important to note that the filmmakers don’t mock his aspirations — as with A Serious Man, the Coens find the humour in Llewyn’s turmoil but they also sympathise with his plight. Inside Llewyn Davis never quite pins down why he hasn’t been “discovered” in the rising folk scene, and that mystery is important in explaining Llewyn’s perpetual purgatory: He can’t figure out why he hasn’t broken through, either.

In lieu of a traditional narrative — there’s no big musical competition that’s driving the film’s engine — Inside Llewyn Davis simply spends a week with Llewyn as he comes to grips with this pregnancy news, lands a gig as a session player, tries to get his record out to managers, and discovers a few secrets about his past. The film can sometimes meander a bit, bringing on supporting characters that are colourful without being especially memorable, but taken as a whole the movie’s seemingly lackadaisical storyline compassionately but also humorously reveals how he became the artist that he is, successful or not.

Considering this really is Llewyn’s show, the supporting cast stays in the background, essentially providing harmony vocals for his tune. Despite limited screen time, Mulligan leaves a forceful impression as a pragmatic singer utterly mortified that a stupid one-night-stand with Llewyn could have resulted in a pregnancy. Others, such as Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund and John Goodman, really do feel like mere signposts along the way of Llewyn’s personal journey.

But whereas in the past the Coen brothers would sometimes settle for broad comedy in their bit players, the folks around Llewyn serve as opposing viewpoints to his desire to pursue pure folk music without settling for commercial accessibility. (Even here, though, the Coens don’t make him a caricature of the pretentious artiste. Audiences will recall that the brothers did something like that already with their biting satire Barton Fink, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes 22 years ago.)

From a technical standpoint, Inside Llewyn Davis is glorious, starting with cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s de-saturated period look and production designer Jess Gonchor’s loving re-creation of 1960s New York. This isn’t a nostalgic New York, though: The Coens’ sharp dialogue and clear-eyed observations about Llewyn’s creative struggles keep the proceedings from being too cozy. As for the musical performances, they’re quite strong, with Isaac convincingly delivering his own vocals. Llewyn may never become a star, but this breakthrough role may make Isaac one.

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Re: Inside Llewyn Davis reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat May 18, 2013 2:45 pm

Tee beat me to it.

I admit I was ready to wash my hands of this after seeing the preview. It didn't look like the Coen's were going to do anything fresh with the early 60s N.Y. scene other than Coen-ize it. But the first reviews coming out of Cannes are raves.

Inside Llewyn Davis: Cannes Review
by Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter



Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” easily could have been about the parasitic, untrustworthy, unreliable, moderately talented screw-up at the heart of the Coen brothers’ enthralling Inside Llewyn Davis. Set in, but not comprehensively about, the Greenwich Village folk music scene circa 1961, this is a gorgeously made character study leavened with surrealistic dimensions both comic and dark, an unsparing look at a young man who, unlike some of his contemporaries, can’t transcend his abundant character flaws and remake himself as someone else. Closer to some of the Coens’ smaller films such as Barton Fink and A Serious Man than to breakouts including O Brother, Where Art Thou? and No Country for Old Men, the French-financed CBS Films pickup nonetheless is a singular work by the protean filmmaking team.

Although played out to some extent in the clubs on Bleecker Street during a period that has acquired legendary status, the idiosyncratic original screenplay is far more concerned with the title character’s neuroses, aggravated lack of self-awareness and inability to turn his limitations to his artistic benefit. And while music permeates the film, viewers expecting a film a clef featuring lightly fictionalized versions of embryonic music all-stars will have to make an adjustment.

Like Bob Zimmerman, the Coen brothers were born and grew up in Minnesota and moved to New York City. Drawn to the milieu that attracted the musical poet but resisting the obvious temptation to make a film about him, the Coens have created a fictional character who could be said to be the guy who did not become Dylan but could have — save for some crucial talent and character issues. These are amusingly but more often cringingly illustrated in the course of the film, a strange odyssey that continually keeps you off balance as it darts and careens down assorted desolate streets and dark alleys of the human condition.

One’s natural instinct to be drawn to a story’s leading character is dashed here in a manner so merciless as to push into darkly comic sadism. A gorgeous opening scene at the Gaslight Cafe, where Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) sings a bleak song about being hanged, abruptly is followed by Llewyn getting the crap beaten out of him for reasons the singer doesn’t understand.

Still, no amount of personal misfortune can explain or justify why the 30ish Llewyn, whose good looks are undercut by a general dumpiness, treats his friends so shabbily. A running motif is his constant need for a place to crash; an unabashed starving-artist type, Llewyn bounces around between the apartment of Columbia scholars the Gorfeins (Ethan Phillips, Robin Barrett); a room at the home of his resentful sister (Jeanine Serralles); a sofa at the Village pad of singer Jean (Carey Mulligan), who’s furious at him and is going with her musical partner Jim (Justin Timberlake); and any other likely suspect, such as singer Al Cody (Adam Driver), a big-city Jew affecting a cowboy persona.

Explicitly presented but not discussed, the Jewish involvement in the music scene is highlighted in a way that cannot be ignored and constantly echoes the satirical tone of the brothers’ splendid A Serious Man, which also centered on a man who gets little other than bad news. The worst comes from Jean, who justifiably shrieks at him for the carelessness that got her pregnant (she actually isn’t sure who the culprit is) and demands he arrange an illegal abortion for her. Not even a cat is safe in Llewyn’s care; asked by the Gorfeins to tend to their tabby, the schmuck lets him escape, prompting some agonizing chases through town involving outstanding direction of a feline.

But the work’s core and most brilliant filmmaking, as stunning and singular as anything in the Coens’ canon, is embodied in what initially feels like a tangent that, among other things, can be viewed as a deadpan satire on the whole “on the road” ethos of the period, right down to the casting of Dean Moriarty himself, Garrett Hedlund, as the mostly mute driver on a hitchhiking trip Llewyn makes to Chicago. With John Goodman’s sarcastic raconteur Roland Turner splayed across the back seat like a malignant combination of Henry VIII and Orson Welles in Touch of Evil, the trip proceeds into a surrealistic twilight zone. Although not decisive, the trip does present the artist with a defining moment the viewer is free to ignore or accept as the truth about what’s “inside” Llewyn Davis.

Visually, the Coens get along fine, thank you, without their habitual cinematographer Roger Deakins, as Bruno Delbonnel creates a succession of lustrous images. The Coens and their executive music producer T Bone Burnett have dug deep to create a fresh, resonant folk soundtrack.

Faced with playing a man one would learn to steer clear of in real life, Isaac deftly manages the task of making Llewyn compulsively watchable. The one question some might be left with is, why are we watching the story of a loser instead of a winner? But part of the point is that often there’s but a hair’s-breadth difference between the two.
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Inside Llewyn Davis reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat May 18, 2013 2:41 pm

Variety

Scott Foundas
Chief Film Critic@foundasonfilm

The sounds of the early 1960s folk music revival float on the air like a strange, intoxicating perfume in the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a boldly original, highly emotional journey through Greenwich Village nightclubs, a bleak New York winter, and one man’s fraught efforts to reconcile his life and his art. A product of the same deeply personal end of the Coens’ filmmaking spectrum previously responsible for the likes of “Barton Fink” and “A Serious Man,” this darkly comic musical drama with an elliptical narrative and often brusque protagonist won’t corral the same mass audience as “No Country for Old Men” and “True Grit.” But strong reviews — for the pic itself and its stupendous soundtrack — should make this December release an awards-season success for distrib CBS Films.

SEE MORE: Cannes Film Festival

As they did with the 1940s Hollywood setting of “Barton Fink,” the Coens have again taken a real time and place and freely made it their own, drawing on actual persons and events for inspiration, but binding themselves only to their own bountiful imaginations. The result is a movie that neatly avoids the problems endemic to most period movies — and biopics in particular — in favor of a playful, evocatively subjective reality. Perhaps most surprising to some viewers will be the pic’s surfeit of something the Coens have sometimes been accused of lacking: deep, heartfelt sincerity.










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Where Clifford Odets provided the inspiration for “Fink’s” eponymous playwright, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) has been similarly modeled on the late Dave Van Ronk, a mainstay of the ’60s New York folk revival whose vaunted reputation among musicians never translated into the commercial success enjoyed by many of his contemporaries. Like Van Ronk, the pic’s Davis is a guitar-strumming balladeer whose repertoire consists mostly of vintage American roots music of the sort catalogued by musicologists John and Alan Lomax as they traversed the southern U.S. One such tune, the haunting “Dink’s Song” (aka “Fare Thee Well”) becomes the pic’s melancholy refrain in a version purportedly cut by Davis and his former partner, Mike (British musician Marcus Mumford), before the latter’s suicide rendered Llewyn a solo act.

This is how we first see Llewyn, lost in song onstage at MacDougal Street’s Gaslight Cafe circa 1961 — the year that a certain freewheeling tumbleweed from Minnesota would turn up on the folk scene and throw the doors open wide. But for the time being, Davis barely ekes out an existence from a cut of the door and the kindness of friends with sofas. Upon leaving the Gaslight for the night, he is confronted in the back alley by a shadowy figure who cold-cocks him for no (immediately) apparent reason.

From there, the pic adopts the odyssey narrative the Coens have employed on several previous occasions, most notably “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” though the tone here is more Joycean than Homeric. Waking up on what seems like the next morning in the apartment of a Columbia U. professor friend, a disoriented Llewyn pulls himself together and sets off on the long subway ride back to the Village — but not before accidentally letting out the pet cat. For the remainder of “Inside Llewyn Davis,” this uncooperative animal seems to be leading Llewyn from one strange adventure to the next, like a beatnik Leopold Bloom on the trail of a feline Stephen Dedalus.

If his music career is dangling by a thread, Llewyn’s personal life qualifies as an outright shambles. The sort of person who expects others to support him but rarely returns the favor, the commitment-phobic singer practically has a VIP account with the local abortionist, and may be back again after learning his brief fling with married folk singer Jean (Carey Mulligan) has resulted in another bun in the oven. Like most of the pic’s cast outside of Isaac, Mulligan has relatively little screen time but makes the most of every minute, as does Justin Timberlake as her oblivious nice-guy husband (and singing partner), Jim.

What’s a starving musician to do except keep gigging? So Llewyn drifts along, sitting in as a session musician on Jim’s novelty record “Hey, Mr. President” (the pic’s lone original song) and, in the movie’s surrealist centerpiece, traveling to Chicago in the company of a drug-addled, partly paralyzed blues man (a cross between Doc Pomus and Dr. John) played with magnificent, scene-guzzling brio by John Goodman. But the Windy City brings only wind, snow and an impromptu audition for a storied club owner and manager (an excellent F. Murray Abraham) which, in anyone else’s movie, would be the moment when Llewyn is finally discovered and can start paying the rent. Instead, he merely returns to Coenville and to pushing his boulder up life’s steeply angled hill.

Yet for all the pain in “Inside Llewyn Davis,” there is also abundant joy — the joy of the music itself, exquisitely arranged by T Bone Burnett and sung live on set by the actors themselves. Both dramatically and musically, the film excels at depicting the many varied styles that wound up grouped under the folk umbrella — from corny, Kingston Trio-esque harmonists to protest singers like Pete Seeger and self-proclaimed “neo-ethnics” such as Van Ronk. In keeping with the Coens’ interest in matters of Jewish cultural identity, the pic also touches — but never dwells — on the folk scene’s abiding spirit of self-reinvention, which allowed a Jewish doctor’s son from Queens to become the singing cowboy Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (a model for the movie’s Al Cody, played by Adam Driver).

Above all, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a revelatory showcase for Isaac, who sings with an angelic voice and turns a potentially unlikable character into a consistently relatable, unmistakably human presence — a reminder that humility and genius rarely make for comfortable bedfellows. Tech contributions are outstanding on all counts, especially the wintry, desaturated lensing of Bruno Delbonnel (pinch hitting for usual Coen d.p. Roger Deakins) and the inspired period detailing of production designer Jess Gonchor, whose bygone Greenwich Village abounds with cramped cold-water flats and Kafka-esque hallways narrowing toward infinity.


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