Film Comment’s Essential Cinema: “Inside Llewyn Davis”

Posted by Erik Luers on 1.8.2014

Premiering at the 66th Cannes Film Festival this past May, Inside Llewyn Davis, the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen, was greeted with rave reviews and the coveted Grand Prix award. Stateside, the film played at the 51st New York Film Festival this past fall before opening theatrically on December 6. Since then, it has recently garnered awards from the National Society of Film Critics and nominations from the Golden Globes, the Independent Spirit Awards and many more. Oscar Issac, the film's lead, has also been heavily praised for his anchoring performance and the film has found its way onto many critics' top 10 lists, even topping Film Comment's list of the 50 Best Films released in 2013.

New York Film Festival Director of Programming Kent Jones discussed the Coens' latest film in the November/December issue of Film Comment's Essential Cinema insert.

I don’t think there has ever been a film about a talented musical artist who, by a peculiar combination of luck, temperament, and destiny, consistently finds himself in the right place at the wrong time. And the miracle of Inside Llewyn Davis—another odyssey all the way back to square one, like Gabriel Byrne’s in Miller’s Crossing and Jeff Bridges’s in The Big Lebowski—is that the joy and magic of making music, the bustling exuberance and creativity of a new, glittering folk scene, is fully and infectiously felt, even with Llewyn’s bitter recalcitrance at its center and the cold-bloodedness of so many managers and promoters at its periphery.

Surveying the critical output the film has inspired, Max Nelson took to Film Comment to showcase the writing of A.O. Scott, Michael Koresky, David Beal, Robert Christgau and Film Comment's own Jonathan Romney. Nelson writes:

But to what extent is Llewyn Davis supposed to function as a music movie—or, more precisely, as an accurate re-creation of a specific time and place in music history? The film has been roundly praised for its period detail, but it’s also been called, variously, a folk tale (A.O. Scott of the New York Times), an interior journey (Koresky), and an Odyssey (virtually everyone—the reference is made hilariously explicit in a late-film gag).

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