Tag Archives: Coen brothers

Inside Llewyn Davis – 2013

llewyn avisInside Llewyn Davis sparked controversy this year when it won the Gran Prix at Cannes but was almost entirely snubbed by the Oscars. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Coen Brothers but I was very curious about such a polarising film. It always interests me when the cinema authorities can’t seem to make their minds up.

However I have to side with the Academy on this one. Inside Llewyn Davis appears to be, unapologetically, the story of a self-absorbed, untalented, selfish loser. There’s really nothing good about this character. Oscar Isaac gives a great performance and makes him as entirely unsympathetic as he is written. From the beginning to the end Llewyn is rude, presumptuous and bitter. He can’t get through a night without heckling one of his rival country music acts and has a huge victim complex when he gets beaten up for it. He’s the type of guy who loses someone else’s pet, lies about it and then shouts at them. A top class human in all respects; by about halfway through the film I was rooting for him to give up his musical career and leave for good.

The other characters aren’t hugely better, Carey Mulligan plays Jean, one half of a scrubbed up folk act that’s far more successful than Llewyn due mainly to Jean’s tight sweaters. She’s belligerent and refuses to take responsibility for her actions, even when she clearly became pregnant through her own volition. Together the two are more sour than lemon juice that went off three years ago. I’ve read that this is meant to be a “love letter to folk music”. All I can say to that is that if this is how the Coen brothers show love I sincerely hope they hate me. Their portrayal of the 1960’s folk scene is a series of ever-dingier locations filled with the most unpleasant people the world has ever known. Failure is inevitable in this world and everyone’s cynical and doomed anyway so why are they trying?

I know that I’m meant to feel sorry for Llewyn, after all he’s a struggling artist who’s best friend committed suicide, it’s just that he’s written to be such a horrible person that you can’t muster up sympathy. In fact I feel more sorry for the guy that used to have to spend time with him. This entire lack of pathos makes the film very boring. You spend all your time hoping that Llewyn will at some point have a redeeming quality or do something that doesn’t fall into the category of whining or upsetting other people. He doesn’t, and it’s an awfully long wait. By the time the final scene rolls round and Llewyn has grown so little as a character that simply repeating the opening scene is apparently an adequate ending – it feels like torture. Not only have you seen this guy be unpleasant for what feels like three hours but the Coen brothers literally rub your face in how little has happened by forcing you to sit through the same lacklustre and miserable folk performance. The production design was nice I guess.

  • Entertainment: 0/5
  • Artistic:              3/5
  • Intellectual:       1/5

 

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Paris je t’aime – 2006

ParisIn 2006 20 different directors were brought together to make a short film about Paris each. The 18 which were chosen to become part of Paris je t’aime all together create a portrait of life and love in Paris. Although, of course, some are more successful than others.

Montmartre: A rather bland piece depicting a sweet chance encounter. It sets the tone of the film very well, “small romances of the districts”. Ultimately, however, this is intensely forgettable.

Quais de Seine: Elegantly shot and touchingly understated, a young man is enchanted by a woman who leads an almost precisely opposite life to his own. Cyril Descours’ performance as a man tentatively attempting courtship is comic and endearing. Even after the film has ended you find yourself cheering on this enamoured teen.

Le Marais: Van Sant, truly the master of mildly metaphysical monologues, gives us a scene of wooing in the cosmopolitan world. Time is short and opportunities are quick to pass by. It is odd that while a missed connection is tragic, a nearly missed connection is incredibly joyful.

Tuileries: Steve Buscemi and the Coen brothers give us a demonstration of how not to act or direct. Each moment is exaggerated to the point of being disgusting, however this isn’t even tongue in cheek. It seems that the directors genuinely believe that this is what counts for wry observational humour in this day and age.

Loin du 16e: The first scene of non-romantic love in the film draws our attention to the bond between mother and child. Perhaps the simplest concept within the film, this section is haunting and poignant regardless of brevity or simplicity.

Porte de Choisy: Either I missed the point, or there wasn’t one. Seriously no idea what happened here, maybe it’s a comment on westernisation in urban communities but really I don’t have a clue.

Bastille: A refreshingly sane piece after Porte de Choisy, but a rather depressing portrayal of a man losing everything he has ever wanted or loved. A true self-sacrifice that doesn’t even seem worth it.

Place des Victoires: What should be a highly memorable section is unfortunately overshadowed by the previous portrayal of motherly love. After such delicacy Sawa’s direction is unnecessarily melodramatic and involved for such a difficult topic.

Tour Eiffel: Chomet’s first and only venture into live action aptly demonstrates why he is an animator. The caricatures of personality and dimension which are charming as drawings are unnerving and incredibly annoying when portrayed by actual humans.

Parc Monceau: While Cuaron’s decision to shoot this as a single take is daring and a testament to the two actors abilities it does make this into a very boring five minutes with little to no visual interest and a fairly average script.

Quartier des Enfants Rouges: The idea had potential, unfortunately it is let down by an awkward and stilted performance by Maggie Gyllenhall. This renders the section sadly mediocre.

Place des Fetes: The tragic counterpart of Van Sant’s piece. This missed connection is so brutally portrayed. In the end it is no one’s fault, it is just an awful series of events.

Pigalle: A couple struggle to maintain the spark in their relationship. A somewhat naïve piece, romanticising weaknesses and empty gestures over true emotional catharsis.

Quartier de la Madeleine: An ill-conceived vampire romance brings down the tone.

Père-Lachaise: An irrational and irritating English woman throws a tantrum at her long-suffering fiancé. Why does he go after her? God alone knows.

Fauborg Saint-Denis: A beautiful piece, containing a fantastic montage of time lapse footage and what comes across as a poem or rap elegising a lost love. All this, only to be sadly ruined by a trite 30 seconds at the end, which utterly devalues the beauty before.

Quartier Latin: Perhaps the highlight of the whole film. A shorter than the average piece showing a couple who have fallen out of love, but maybe are still soulmates. There is no anger or vitriol between them, they argue with grace and enjoyment. They light up with each other, regardless of their official relationship. There is a love but it is indefinable.

14e arrondisement: An American tourist narrates her visit to France. In a tactful finale we see views of the entire city as she contemplates bittersweetly on her life and loves in somewhat flawed French. It is endearing and genuinely funny and lightens the mood from the more mature and unhappy pieces which preceeded it.