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WHERE'S ITS SCROTUM?!
March 26, 2014 4:23 AM   Subscribe

Though Llewyn appears stuck, he’s the nomad always ecstatic in his circumlocutions. He’s on a road to nowhere but at least trudging on a path to somewhere. The rest of the world marks time, gliding smoothly along the straight line of the future, arrested comfortably in the steady flow of the ever-present, and being naively present relieves one from the nightmare of history. Maybe the materialization of Dylan’s music in the final minutes, when it wasn’t there in the beginning, is another sign that Llewyn’s time has passed, and it’s time to, um, face the music. Like clockwork he goes into the alley to confront the shadowy figure, and takes his punch (this time not saying “I’m sorry?” before the fist collides with his face, however). Consigned again to this cesspool, he doesn't stay down but ascends through iron bar shadows and follows his bellicose aggressor, who gets into a cab and drives off. Llewyn looks on somewhat wistfully, not saying “farewell” in accord with Dylan but rather says “Au revoir”—indicating they’ll see each other again. At that quiet utterance the cab’s wheels screech and turn a sharp corner. The linear trajectory forward is thwarted and Fate's Emissary will inevitably come around again. The Orbital Noose: Inside Llewyn Davis
posted by timshel (25 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Beanplate me, Beanplate me, 'til I'm dead and gone.
Beanplate me, Beanplate me, 'till I'm dead and gone.
Wouldn't mind the plating, but the laying in the plate so long, poor boy.
posted by Riton at 5:02 AM on March 26 [6 favorites]


I saw Inside Llewyn Davis with two friends who - pointedly - did not even remotely get the film and made watching it a miserable experience for me. (I thought it was chilly but brilliant.)

This review would definitely infuriate them all over again!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:05 AM on March 26


it’s a piece penned with such agonizing earnestness
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:32 AM on March 26 [3 favorites]


In all seriousness, thanks for posting this. I saw the movie maybe 3 weeks ago and can't stop thinking about it. It's a wonderful, wonderful movie, funny and tragic with absolutely beautiful music.
posted by Riton at 6:21 AM on March 26 [2 favorites]


I have to disagree with any analysis of Inside Llewyn Davis that says it's about fate - my reading, and what actually made it so enjoyable to me, is that it's about how Llewyn is responsible for everything that happens to him but he's too nearsighted about his life to understand that his actions make him repeat the same cycle over misfortune over and over. The song he keeps repeatedly feeling he is unable to sing is Dink's Song - "If I had wings..." - it's about escaping, which he can't do. We see a lot of options for escape for him - death, the military, Chicago - but he always chooses to go back to what he knows, even if what he knows is miserable.

This does imply that there's a possibility that Dylan's appearance signifies Llewyn's escape, because he's passed the torch. He finally sang the song, and then something new happened.

I did miss the full extent of one of the jokes the first time around - "Get back together"/"That's good advice" and I like the analysis of it here.

Also I'm pretty sure there are cats in it because watching the very dour Oscar Isaac interact with them is one of the funniest juxtapositions I have ever seen on a movie screen.
posted by capricorn at 6:23 AM on March 26 [9 favorites]


Good timing for me, as I just watched the mov... ahem... film this weekend. So much going on in this thing -- I remarked to Ms. Rancher last night that I thought I'd like the movie a lot more in another year, after I'd had time to think about it, much like Lebowski. They caught some universal, timeless truths once again, but in little microscopic ways for me, like the avaricious ambition of music industry hopefuls, who despite calling you their friend, will gladly climb over your corse if it gives them a foothold on the way up, the inescapability of the lives ultimately and slowly ground into sand by heroin, and things being just business for the club-owners, label owners, promoters, who really only hear money and not music. The point obviously is what all that says about humanity as a whole which could be told from another angle than music, but those are the things that slammed me immediately as a musician, and there was a lot more going on that has yet to soak in, though I doubt I'll ever finish this article, as I don't have the facilities to soak all that up at once.

The cat watching the stations roll by at the beginning was an awesome foreshadowing of "Oh, hey, we're going on a journey." The cat as watcher, disinterested chronicler of events, is a thing that's rolled around in my head, and ultimately the way that Llewyn actually tries to care about the cat & ultimately fails in that respect (while blaming fate -- when he closes the car door on it outside Chicago he in effect says "what can I do?" and the answer in his head -- which may be right sadly, is "nothing.") re the sort of things I find rolling around in my head a few days later.

I think the cat is our real storyteller, here. "Humans!" *sigh*
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:36 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]


I have to disagree with any analysis of Inside Llewyn Davis that says it's about fate - my reading, and what actually made it so enjoyable to me, is that it's about how Llewyn is responsible for everything that happens to him but he's too nearsighted about his life to understand that his actions make him repeat the same cycle over misfortune over and over.

Yep. It's all happening to him. So human to think this way.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:38 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what to do with this, but the photo of the Greenfung's unphotogenic, unhappy baby that Llewyn lethargically calls "adorable" reminded me of the photo of Bunny's desolate prairie home in The Big Lebowski that Jon Polito wants to show her to try to make her homesick.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:51 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]


I read all I can about the Coen's movies and rarely find much of it as helpful as repeated viewings. Their original screenplays often repeat a phrase. A Serious Man's phrase was, "What's going on?", and when I read the screenplay for Barton Fink, I was pleased to find numerous idioms that involve the word "head".

Inside Llewyn Davis' phrases were "What did you do?" and "What are you doing?" uttered by the man in the alley who beats Llewyn and written on the wall of the bathroom stall on the trip to Chicago.

I'm with Devils Ranger about what narrates the story because the story is replete with cats. When Llewyn calls professor's Gorfein's office to explain about the escaped cat, the professor's secretary mishears Llewyn's messages as, "Llewyn is the cat."

I was intrigued as to why Llewyn took the cat to Chicago after discovering it wasn't the Gorfein's and the conflict emoted when leaving it in the car with Roland Turner. Coming back from Chicago, Llewyn doesn't stop to see about Diane and his child in Akron and the sequential scene (played to some pretty eerie music) is the car striking yet another orange cat.

I will stop short of terming the cats as symbols because the term is more often misapplied than understood, but end my post with a quote from Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners--
In good fiction, certain of the details will tend to accumulate meaning from the story itself, and when this happens, they become symbolic in their action.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 7:58 AM on March 26


My mother, husband and I saw the movie at Christmas (like the good Jews we are) and are still talking about it.

Anyway, there's some good stuff in this essay but also some unbridled silliness: "His gigantic and foaming form suggests life reduced to a prodigious tub of guts, the latrine background recalling the warning of how Llewyn’s life will become a bowl of shit."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:31 AM on March 26


The movie was fantastic, but that said, I can almost believe this overwrought, preening analysis was written by the Coen Brothers, like the ridiculously solemn fake commentary track they did for the Blood Simple DVD ten years ago.
posted by Bromius at 8:32 AM on March 26


like the ridiculously solemn fake commentary track they did for the Blood Simple DVD ten years ago.

Can you elaborate? Blood Simple is one of the only Coen blurays I'm without and I'm shocked to learn they've ever done a commmentary.
posted by timshel at 8:45 AM on March 26


I especially appreciated that the cat is in its own movie, parallel to this one and only hinted at, and it's a Disney film.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:48 AM on March 26 [3 favorites]


The Blood Simple commentary was done by an actor playing a British-accented film critic. He says ridiculous things like "I am told this scene was shot upside down" etc.
posted by gubo at 9:00 AM on March 26


Man, I want that. I love Blood Simple -- saw it when it was their only mov... ahem... film on the recommendation of a friend because it was filmed in & around Austin, & was blown away both by the economy of the script and the crazy symbolism. I still wonder about the dead fish to this day.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:08 AM on March 26


The Coens relate a little bit about the making of Blood Simple in the book, My First Movie: Twenty Celebrated Directors Talk about Their First Film
posted by lazycomputerkids at 9:17 AM on March 26


Blood Simple is one of the only Coen blurays I'm without and I'm shocked to learn they've ever done a commmentary.

They did a commentary along with Billy Bob Thornton on the The Man Who Wasn't There DVD, but I think that's the only one.
posted by doctornecessiter at 9:18 AM on March 26


Into the hairy, lint-filled navel of a movie about a jerk…
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:25 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Every review I have read about this movie comments to Llewyn being a 'jerk', or his 'likeability' and my opinion, for what it's worth, is the character is more flawed (or genuine than the typical protagonist) and dealing with the recent suicide of his partner. Without fail, Llewyn apologizes when met with degradation from Jean, his sister (for his language), Mr. Grossman and his agent Mel. Jean's condemnation is nearly commentary to self-imposed sexism in the 60's and a 'jerk' doesn't arrange and pay for a desired abortion.

The Coens are often criticized (and celebrated) for the amount of expletives in their scripts and Llewyn curses like a sailor, or merchant marine. When Grossman flatly defers featuring him as a solo performer, Llewyn thanks him for his advice, never explaining why it would be impossible to follow it.

A barometer of Llewyn's jerkiness is his coping with Roland Turner's self-absorbed conversation and walking sticks.

Llewyn's flaw is a confidence in his own earnestness versus the careerism of which he accuses Jean (within a context of defending himself) or the quirky personality of Troy Nelson, a soldier from Fort Dix, whose success at the Gate of Horn compels Llewyn to travel to Chicago.

Llewyn's simply not going to succeed in a business most don't and can't figure out why, but who rightly perceives failure as they fail? In the beginning of the film, when Troy asks Jim and Jean to join him on stage, Llewyn wrongly assumes Troy will invite him (Llewyn's self-absorbed p.o.v.) and when the trio begins to sing a beloved standard, Llewyn is briefly confounded the audience sings along.

Bob Dylan's near apparition is a mythos the Coen's made human-- raw and flawed.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 10:26 AM on March 26 [4 favorites]


my reading, and what actually made it so enjoyable to me, is that it's about how Llewyn is responsible for everything that happens to him but he's too nearsighted about his life to understand

In other words, it is a Coen Brothers movie.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:37 AM on March 26


For me, one of the most terrifying and soul-killing quotes from the bible is,
"Many are called, but few are chosen". I suspect it would be for Llewyn also.

Strange movie, like life in an anechoic chamber.
posted by Chitownfats at 1:00 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


"Many are called, but few are chosen"

Holy shit, that says it all.
posted by steinsaltz at 3:40 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


The John Goodman character shares a name with my father-in-law, who works as a cop in Jersey. Since his name is relatively uncommon, I wonder who in the Coens' coterie he arrested.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:09 PM on March 26


my reading, and what actually made it so enjoyable to me, is that it's about how Llewyn is responsible for everything that happens to him but he's too nearsighted about his life to understand

Deep into the hairy, lint-filled navel of a movie about how Karma's a bitch.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:18 PM on March 26


I saw this movie over Christmas. I haven't been quite able to figure out why I've been so haunted by it since then but I think this article helps elucidate a lot of the ideas in the film that could be easily missed, so thanks for sharing!
posted by winterportage at 10:48 AM on March 31


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