Mudcat Café message #3516949 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #149279   Message #3516949
Posted By: Desert Dancer
19-May-13 - 10:50 PM
Thread Name: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
Singing a Happier Tune in Cannes
Manohla Dargis
NY Times

CANNES, France The applause for Joel and Ethan Coen's wonderful new film, a comedy in a melancholic key called "Inside Llewyn Davis," started someplace around the midway mark. Prompted by the hilariously inane "Please Please Mr. Kennedy," sung by Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver who play three bearded 1961 folkies warbling and strumming through a space-race ditty the Cannes audience started to laugh and clap. By the time the film ended, the clapping, laughing and whooping critics at the 66th Cannes Film Festival were over the moon.

What a relief! After days and nights of rain puddling on the red carpet and grim tidings darkening the screens, the Coens delivered both much-needed levity and an expressive, piercing story about artistic struggle. Mr. Isaac, wearing a deadpan expression that wavers between the soulful and soul-sick, plays Llewyn, a New York folk musician groping to find his existential way in the turbulent wake of a tragedy. With his guitar and bitterness, lofty principles and light wallet, Llewyn is barely scraping by, taking low-paying gigs and crashing on couches. His most recent album, which shares the film's title, has gone nowhere and he's spiraling after it rapidly.

The movie opens with him performing "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" in a Greenwich Village nightclub in which the air is thick with smoke and sincerity, his warmly alive tenor offering a touching contrast to the tune's fatalism. It's a traditional song that was covered by, among others, the folk revivalist Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) and appears on his album "Inside Dave Van Ronk." The as-told-to book by Van Ronk and Elijah Wald, "The Mayor of Macdougal Street: A Memoir," partly inspired the Coens, who, as they did in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," also playfully, sometimes pointedly have drawn on Homer's "Odyssey." Soon after Llewyn finishes the song, he steps into an alley and receives a bad beating, the first in many punishments on what proves a long, difficult road.

Set mostly in downtown New York with an occasional trip to the Upper West Side and a lengthy detour to Chicago, the film tracks Llewyn as he tries to be true to himself and his art while scrambling to build a career. The years and fate have not been kind, but then neither has he. He takes more than he gives, borrowing money along with infringing on other people's beds and their partners. He's slept with the wife (Carey Mulligan) of his best friend (Mr. Timberlake), an indiscretion that hasn't stopped Llewyn from either flopping at their apartment or singing with them when the need or maybe just his need arises. His journey which involves a number of cool cats, including a riff on a jazz man by John Goodman is humbling, tragic, absurd, revelatory.

"Inside Llewyn Davis," which is in the main competition, will open in the United States in December, doubtless after making other stops on the festival circuit. It's the kind of great work that cuts right through the noise, frivolity and cross-branding that at any given moment threaten to overshadow Cannes, and that was exemplified by a news release e-mailed on Sunday: "Taking futuristic dystopian fashion and fun to whole new levels, Lionsgate's 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Capitol Party at Baoli Beach on Saturday evening sponsored by CoverGirl was this year's hottest event at the Cannes Film Festival."


~ Becky in Tucson