My appreciation and respect for the diligent work of the Cohen brothers seems to be growing by the second. From the masterful True Grit to the cultural phenomenon Fargo and now to the subtle, urban epic Inside Llewyn Davis the brothers have shown nothing but consistency, precision and an eye for cinematic wonder.
To be perfectly honest, I approached the film with rather prejudiced pretences regarding its content. I did have in mind its Oscar Best Picture snub and had expected it to be a rather dull and some form of pretentious cinematic secret that I just wouldn't understand. But I did understand it. In fact, I love it.
Depicting not even a week in the life of a struggling musician Inside Llewyn Davis captures the '60s folk music scene in flawless fashion. It would be ill suffice to say that Llewyn "barely gets by". He has no place of his own, no winter coat or even a cat to call his own - but he has the highest opinion of his deprived talent, his instrument of choice and the couches of his many friends. And in the '60s what else does a struggling musician really need?
There's a certain smoothness and natural quality to the films by the Cohen brothers. The characters are intriguing and colourful yet still realistically crafted. Unlike their previous work in True Grit the story presented is not exactly what you could call conclusory. There is no grand moral or message that can be drawn from the film. Rather, the film is an insight.
In a limited colour palate, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel has strung together a collection of memorable and indulgent views of an indifferent winter. From various scenes in and around Greenwich village to to icy roads abound Chicago, Delbonnel brings hard-found beauty to the film.
The music is extraordinary and will be with you for days. T-Bone Burnett responsible for producing the music score for films such as The Hunger Games, Cold Mountain and Crazy Heart collaborates as executive music producer in the film with the brothers. The result is the greatest treasure in the film. 60s folk music is not easy to present to any mainstream audience but Burnett pulls it off. Tracks such as Please Mr Kennedy allow rare insights and a faster understanding of the music scene that the title character is so involved in. Others such as Hang Me, O Hang Me, The Death of Queen Jane and Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song) are heartfelt tunes that truly resonate with the audience.
In the title role, Oscar Isaac aids the unusual character study. His character betrays little emotion and in this portrayal of a man who has been numbed by boredom and a lack of success - Isaac is especially convincing. But in those rare moments of catharsis, Isaac brings to life another side to the character that we would never have otherwise believed could exist. Carey Mulligan takes on a drastically different approach in her supporting role. Her usually soft, articulate, intellctual persona that we so often see in films such as in An Education and Never Let Me Go is forgone. Her performance as the neurotic, irritable friend of Llewyn is well-placed - applying a certain like-ability to the title character as we see observe the interactions between the two. We were first introduced to her musical abilities in her rendition of New York, New York in the daring Steve McQueen film Shame. Her vocal contribution, though small in Inside Llewyn Davis, is a small delight no doubt a majority of the audience would relish in.
It's aversion to a formulaic plot-line is a breath of fresh air. Inside Llewyn Davis is in short a classic. Hell it may well be the best film of the year. Inside Llewyn Davis rather makes David O. Russell films look like some ill-calculated mess. For adult audiences, it is an enchanting portrait of a disorderly life. It has struck the golden balance between realism and the fantastical, fiction quality of cinema.