The Coen Brothers direct Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and John Goodman in this Sixties set drama following a feckless folk singer as he tries to find his place in the world, as a solo artist, after he loses his partner.
Lots to love here but not quite as perfect as I remember from its big screen release. The idea of Joel and Ethan in entropy, to the point of separation, was inconceivable back in 2013. Even with the rare and occasional iffy one in their back catalogue. Now it is hard to watch this without wondering if even subconsciously we are seeing them work through what creative divorce proceedings might look like. Or like all the symbolism and dropped stitches in a Coen Brothers joint, whether it is just included for their own personal amusement and now history has taken over and, the unthinkable happened, and they take a break from working together. The mournful tone, accentuated by guest cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, wintery, makes this their saddest, bleakest film… even more so than No Country For Old Men or Barton Fink. They are both pulsed with a mordant sense of playfulness… this is just unremarkable tragedy after unremarkable tragedy, grinding us and our untethered anti-hero down. The constant refrain of the funereal folk ear worm, Far Thee Well, smooths the sadness. Is the song a suicide note from a beloved brother in music or a deadly Dear John from a departing lover? Oscar Issac’s gives a poker faced performance. Turning the potentially rejectable and difficult Llewyn into a being whose malaise you truly invest in. He gets a glimpse of how random, cruel, lonely and fated his world is and will be. Yet he ploughs his furrow, selfishly. Like The Coens themselves, a unique path of great art, that it is hard to “see a lot of money” in. Keep carrying that cute cat Llewyn, watch the world go by at a speed you can’t fathom, and jump up off at any stop that doesn’t feel like home. There’s always a parallel you, caught in an even more destructive path, one who always has Llewyn Davis to blame.
Perfect Double Bill: Crazy Heart (2009)
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