The Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre’s screening of the melancholic Inside Llewyn Davis (2012) was shown as part of the cinema’s Film Club season. Introduced by Rachel Findley she told us that the film was about a week in the life of a singer who is active in New Yorks folk scene in 1961 just before Bob Dylan exploded on the scene and ‘folk’ music was changed forever. The inspiration for this latest Joel and Ethan Coen written and directed vehicle is the music and memoir’s, (The Mayor of MacDougal Street), of Greenwich Village folk legend Dave van Ronk and the muted hues of the front cover of Bob Dylan’s second album released in 1963 The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It shows Dylan with Suze Rotolo at the corner of Jones Street and West Village New York City with critic Janet Maslin summing up the iconic impact of the cover as "a photograph that inspired countless young men to hunch their shoulders, look distant, and let the girl do the clinging".
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), an unreadable character, is a self pitying loser who had made a name for him self as part of a singing duo until his partner throw himself off of the George Washington Bridge and he now spends his time looking for singing gigs around the folk clubs of Greenwich Village and bumming free board and lodging from friends and intellectuals that want to show him off to their friends as their ‘pet folk singer’. Other characters in his life are the married folk singing duo Jean and John Berkley (Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake) Jean is pregnant and it could be Davis’s child, but as most of Greenwich Village fancies Jean so it could be anybody’s. All the same our wandering minstrel has to raise the $200 for an abortion! When Davis hitches a ride to Chicago to audition for producer Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) he meets jazzman Roland Turner (John Goodman) who OD’s on the journey but recovers with the help of his valet Johnny Five (Garret Hedlund). The audition is not successful but Grossman does offer him a chance to form another duo but he turns it down deciding instead to go back into the merchant navy. Yet another plan that did not come to fruition!
Like the tracks on a lot of music albums from that period, the film itself is a little uneven at times, with high and low points. More like the rather disappointing A Serious Man (2009) than the brilliance of films like True Grit (2010), O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000), Fargo (1996) or my own personnel favourite The Big Lebowski (1998). But a Coen Brothers release is always appreciated and this one is very well constructed, the cinematography of Bruno Delbonnel is superb highlighting the period detail and as usual the acting is first rate but what worries me is the brothers reliance on a cute animal to under right this movie for no real reason which is not usually the case! The music that forms a large part of the narrative is under the direction of T Bone Burnet with some input from Carey Mulligans husband Marcus Mumford and unusually the numbers in the film, which contextualise the era, are complete which has the tendency to slow the narrative down. It has been suggested that this film is not about the failure to make money but the failure to be connected to others, now theirs something I know about?