Another man of constant sorrow

This is my review of Inside Llewyn Davis [DVD] [2014].

As you would expect from a Coen brothers film, this is a poignant, yet often funny, quirky take on the life of a young man trying to establish himself as a solo folk singer in early 1960s New York. The haunting opening song, "Hang me, Oh hang me" displays his talent and individuality, but also the problem that it is not the type of music that makes money. His often negative, cynical and grouchy personality does not help.

Penniless and homeless, Davis is obliged to cadge each night's sleep on the couch – or floor – of yet another friend whose goodwill he has not yet abused beyond recall. The recent death of his singing partner may give him reason to be depressed and moody, but one senses he has always been uncompromising and prickly. Yet, his concern not to abandon an appealing ginger cat that gets locked out of a friend's apartment shows he is not totally self-absorbed. Despite his many shortcomings, we are somehow made to want him to succeed. Will he remain a loser or will the Dylan sound-alike who appears at the end mark the beginning of a more receptive climate for his music?

There is just one section of this film that does not work for me. I understand the need to portray the tedium of a long drive across dead flat land to Chicago in the company of a shrewd but boorish old jazz man played by John Boorman and his handsome but dull chauffeur-cum-factotum and perhaps something more, but this went on far too long. Then a potentially interesting situation in which Davis agrees to drive a stranger back to New York so he can sleep but takes a detour on the way to see an old flame ends so abruptly it as if a section of the plot has been crudely cut.

The film will appeal for its soundtrack alone to lovers of 1960s folk music.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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