Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

A folk singer and his cat: Coen Brothers show struggle of aspiring artist

(web)inside ld courtesy cbs films

Llewyn Davis is having a bad week. With his cat and guitar in tow, Davis sets forth on his biggest endeavor yet — making it into the industry.

The story follows Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac, in 1960s Greenwich Village. Davis desperately pursues the dream of becoming a famous folksinger. He struggles to survive and resorts to crashing on the couches of friends and acquaintances. However, the more Davis stumbles in his quest to become famous, the more he pushes away those who support him.

Directors Joel and Ethan Coen are known for writing and directing movies full of dark humor such as “Fargo” and “The Big Lebowski.” “Inside Llewyn Davis” sees Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman contribute to the success of the genre that the Coen brothers have built a reputation for.

The film is a comedic drama about the folk music industry from the ‘60s with music performed by the actors throughout the film.

As Davis charges through an unpleasant week of his life, he encounters many acquaintances who all share the same opinion on him: everything he touches turns to ruin. Meanwhile, the audience watches in pain as Davis creates more problems than successes for himself.

Davis gains sympathy from the audience because of his failed aspirations. He is a strange central character to the story as he’s both arrogant and egocentric; he seems to feel that he deserves the success of a major record deal more than others. The audience has to wonder why he is still such a likeable character, despite his flaws.

Isaac stands out among his supporting actors, as he is able to keep the audience engrossed by embodying both the bitter and charming qualities of Davis. Davis’ sour personality is manifested in sporadic bits that occur throughout the movie, especially when he is feeling particularly cheated by the music industry, his friends and life in general.

The raw winter setting creates a melancholy mood, which is contrasted by the awkward moments between Mulligan and Goodman. While the audience is first presented with Isaac’s talented singing, Jean, played by Mulligan, can not stop berating him for being a complete disaster. Goodman provides comic relief halfway through the movie with his character’s uncouth stories and suggestions for Davis.

Besides the Coen brothers’ signature dark humor, they also use their signature application of mise en scène — the arrangement of sets to contribute to the theme. In “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the creation of tiny hallways leading into each friend’s apartment juxtaposes Davis’ big dreams of becoming a folksinger inside such a tiny industry.

Set design spectacularly sets the theme throughout the movie, yet the cinematography accomplishes much more. In order to complement the winter setting, lighting throughout the film is set in dark tones such as blues, greys and greens. Costume design completes this selection of colors, except for Goodman’s ostentatious purple suit.

This bleak lighting remains constant for the duration of the film, apart from each performance scene. Throughout the film, other aspiring folksingers perform with the most importance being placed on Davis. During these performances, the lighting changes subtly into a soft glow as if to show that the singers reach a state of ecstasy when performing.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” is already well-known for its beautiful soundtrack with Isaac singing Davis’ parts himself. Performances were done live while filming and is an integral part to the harmony of the music with the story. The only music in the film is from live performances with the exception of a few songs playing off a radio or record player. The silence in the story when there is not a performance creates a sense of gravity for the audience.

The film is highly enjoyable as the humor perfectly counters the audience’s unwanted attraction for Llewyn Davis. These scattered moments of dark humor expressively transforms a depressing story into a beautiful film of hope.

Although the music and writing in “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a significant piece to its success, Isaac’s performance alone can lure folks to the theatre.

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