Inside Llewyn Davis

This latest outing from the Coen Brothers is a poignant observation of the folk scene in Greenwich Village in the early sixties before Dylan breathed some serious fire into it and sparking the imaginations of a disgruntled generation. The central protagonist, Llewyn Davis-Oscar Isaac- who lends his name to the title, languishes in obscurity like a restless hobo fulfilling his ‘On the Road’ fantasies. However the only road he travels-other than an ill fated trip to Chicago- is the one that takes him from couch to couch as he seeks to rest his weary head at the end of each relentlessly frustrating day.
Frustration is the one theme that runs through this film as Llwewyn suffers knock back after knock back and receives each one with a resignation and graciousness which probably reveals more about his lack of success rather than any lack of talent or belief.
Previously one half of a duo he is now a solo artist after his partner committed suicide and the sense that this affected his ambitions greatly is prevalent through out. His relationship with his two closest friends Jim and Jean- Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan- is dysfunctional in that having slept with Jean she blames him for her being pregnant and unaware who the father is. Her vitriol and hostility towards Llewin manifests itself in contempt whilst ignoring the fact she had any part in it and the blame lies entirely at his door. He even records a session on a record waiving any future royalties in favour of taking a flat fee in order to pay for her abortion and later discovers the record is poised to be a great hit and yet again he has lost out. Not that he has any regard for the record in question regarding it as pop trash whereas he is a purist.
Likewise after travelling to Chicago to meet an industry bigwig he gives an impressive audition and is subsequently told he hasn’t got what it takes to make it as a solo artist but could become part of a manufactured trio. Trios seem to be quite the thing on the scene it would appear as his friends Jim and Jean have already teamed up with a young singer/guitarist in some sort of Peter, Paul and Mary prototype. Llewyn however is banking on solo success and being answerable to no-one.
His relationship with his family is hardly any less dysfunctional with his strait laced sister imploring him to seek regular employment or at least return to the Merchant Navy where he had previously eked out an existence; existence versus life being a constant argument between these two.
The attention to detail the Coen Brothers bring to their films is of course as present as ever. managing to capture the Greenwich Village of 1961 as it has been imagined by subsequent generations. At various points it is almost as if they are trying to capture various album covers with Dylan’s groundbreaking ‘Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ making several obvious appearances as Llewyn makes his way through blisteringly cold snow lined streets wrapped up in a coat barely able to keep out the winter chill.
Dylan hangs over the whole project like some looming spectre and never more so than at the films denouement where as Llewyn leaves the Gaslight café he takes to the stage as a newcomer whilst Llewyn leaves by the back door to an alley where he proceeds to get the shit kicked out of him. It is a fitting summary for someone you feel has constantly been a man out of time and never more so than now as his life reaches a new low the music he has championed has had its baton picked up by someone who will more than run with it taking it to mass consciousness in a way Llewyn is only able to dream about.

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