Friday, January 10, 2014


By Chuck Graham,

Llewyn Davis waiting for his muse.

First of all, please note the Coen brothers’ new film “Inside Llewyn Davis” is not a reference to Bob Dylan or Dave Van Ronk or any other folk singer with a highly romanticized career.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” is about the frustrations of yearning to live a life of artistic expression, even if it is just a meager life without that much art. Or that much expression.

That these two extremely successful filmmakers can still remember so accurately and with such humanity exactly what that feels like – think of the 30-plus years ago before “Blood Simple” scored – is remarkable in itself.

Oscar Isaac as Davis has the sad dark eyes of a sensitive artist and the thick shock of hair to prove his artistic virility. The entry for “tortured soul” in the dictionary could use Isaac’s face.

Surfing friends’ couches to save money, forced to deal with marginal characters on the fringe of their own professions as second-rate agents and musicians, Davis comes to personify the old expression “It’s impossible to soar like an eagle when you have to work with turkeys.”

Staying convinced he has the talent to soar if he can just shake all these turkeys off his back (including his bitter singing partner and ex-girlfriend played by Carey Mulligan) is the challenge Davis faces every hour. This the ball-and-chain he drags through life, for to unchain himself would be to give up his dream.

There is no feel-good ending, no show business triumph over adversity.  That’s not what “Inside Llewyn Davis” is all about.

The value of this picture is to be a tender reminder that for every arrogant Bob Dylan out there, there are many thousands of unheard folk singers like Llewyn Davis.


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