Inside Llewyn Davis, shot in 2013 by the Coen brothers, who are among the biggest names in American cinema, takes a distinctive and special place in their careers that spread 40 years.

There are many factors that make Inside Llewyn Davis special in Coens’ filmography: Bruno Delbonnel’s gloomy and genuine cinematography, Oscar Isaac’s splendid performance and authentic folk songs that take shape with the character’s journey. In a story that we follow a folk musician staggering to find his way through 60’s New York, pure Coen humor shines despite all the sadness.

Ethan and Joel delicately portrait of failure in the Sisyphus narrative adapted from the life of a real folk musician named Dave Van Ronk. On the other hand, it captures an unfamiliar emotional tone in their films with unanswered questions and devastating scenes.


The film opens at The Gaslight Cafe. Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) is like the incarnation of folk music that ‘neither seems new nor old’. He is a musician whose partner committed suicide, whose records don’t sell, who does not even have a coat to wear. He is also shaken by the news that his ex-girlfriend Jean (Carey Mulligan) is pregnant.


The contrast between Llewyn’s older sister and him, and his reference to his father as someone who continues to ‘exist’, epitomizes their familial relationship. He is simply one of the Man Who Wasn’t There in the Coen universe. He shocks with the audience when they find shallow performance of a musician brilliant, and he cannot even remember the abortion day of his child.


The Coens laugh hard, dragging their protagonist to dead ends, as they did in A Serious Man (2009). The distance they put between them and Llewyn and their preference to avoid vulgarity, multiply the effect of the tragicomic scenes. Looking for a place to stay, with his unsold records, Davis wants to place his box full of records under the coffee table when he goes to the house of the folk musician Al Cody (Adam Driver), whom he has just met, but the obstacle he encounters is a box full of unsold records again…


The film traps us in a narrow corridor with Llewyn Davis’ failures, stuck life and lack of belonging. Davis embarks on an awkward road trip with a broken-down jazz musician (John Goodman) and his silent chauffeur. He sees “What are you doing?” scribble on the wall when he enters the toilet of the gas station. This brief moment sums up the Coen’s view. It is a cinema that resists meaning, can always approach the shallowness of search with humor and remain sincere.


After a series of terrible events, Davis reaches out to producer Bud Grossman for his final move. Perhaps with some pity, the image of Davis on the threshold of the office and the light can be perceived as a hope or an exit ticket. The camera’s slow approach to Llewyn and Bud during the song performed by Oscar Isaac with his exquisite performance creates a similar effect. Unfortunately, this too is a unpleasent Coen joke. Bud says he doesn’t see much money in him.

Taking the stage at the beginning of the film, Jean and Jim sing an emotional song. When things start to get too hearty for a Coen film, the atmosphere is interrupted by the owner’s fantasy about Jean. Llewyn’s heartfelt singing during his visit to his father in the nursing home is again in a bittersweet tone. And the audience get nothing but a joke. All ties are long gone and the doors are closed.

While hitchhiking home, Llewyn sees Akron signs one after another. The place where his ex-girlfriend and child are… Taking that road is imposible anyway.


At the end, Llewyn finds himself back on the stage of The Gaslight Cafe. New York Times is there. Davis looks at a young man with messy hair who takes the stage after him. When we hear the legendary Farewell, it is certain that we are listening Bob Dylan. Llewyn will miss the lottery again. The Coens’ salute to Dylan is also the sweetest harbinger of changing times. The folk they often make fun of throughout Inside Llewyn Davis; this ‘neither new nor old’ genre- and the world is now on the brink of revolution…


As a pure loser, why Llewyn is so special? Because despite all the setbacks, he never loses his passion for music and his uniqueness. It is important in this context that the leading actor Oscar Isaac identifies his character with Charles Bukowski’s Blue Bird poem in the interview of the film. He will continue to sing like a wounded cat slithering through the snow in wet socks. Because that’s all he’s got.

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