Friday, 18 October 2013

BFI London Film Festival - Inside Llewyn Davis

After months of waiting I got to see the Coen brothers and Inside Llewyn Davis.

The second film of the BFI London Film Festival, for me, was a ticket, a golden ticket to the gala event, the premiere of sort of Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coens' new film.

Without realising it, I arrived early in Leicester Square. The film was being shown at the 'big' Odeon cinema. Fences had been set up, a large crowd had esembled around it. The press were all crammed together and the security were waiting to check my ticket. The woman lied to me after I asked if the Coens had arrived, she said yes so I thought I'd better dash inside. I excitedly walked on the red carpet, second time I've done this, and was so excited I forgot to remove my winter wear, particularly my strange looking hat. When I was in the cinema I looked at my watch, I was 30 minutes early and was in dire need of coffee, but I was denied this. Security didn't like it when people left. Darn.

Fast forward to the film. The director of the festival introduced the film and, I held my breath because I could see them, Joel and Ethan Coen took the stage. I was so excited, grinning like a crazed fan. I had an amazing seat too, second row. Oscar Issacs, Cary Muligan and John Goodman were there too.

The film itself was brilliant. Set in 1961 focusing on the Greenwich Village folk music scene, talented artist, Llewyn Davis is struggling to make money with his music. He doesn't have a home, he moves from place to place, sleeping on 'friends' couches. The film at first feels like a day in the life of Llewyn Davis as he visits people, his useless agent, the cafe where he regularly plays, the friends' wife he got pregnant, his sister and various other characters he meets. I say characters because the weird and wonderful and some down right awful characters are what make the Coens brilliant. No matter how small the character, they play a purpose and have an impact. There is one character in particular, a driver who barely says a word but he makes an impact. Each person is created and they feel like they are real and have a backstory.

Oscar Issacs deserves great credit, he appears in every scene. He can act and yes, he has an amazing voice. I have seen him sing in 'Sucker Punch' but as we all know that song was a world away from folk music in the 60s. The character of Llewyn isn't as complex as some would say. He's hit hard times, especially after a personal tragedy as well as having to deal with all his other mistakes. Joel Coen described him as a talented guy getting nowhere.

The cast surrounding Oscar Issacs were excellent, especially a Coen regular, John Goodman as Roland Turner, who's scenes take place on a car journey to Chicago. During the Q&A after the film Goodman was asked to explain how he became involved in the film his answer was (bottom Tweet), of course there was a lot of laughs, as it was partly true. The top tweet was Ethan Coen answering a question about whether anything was different in the edit and if there was an alternative end.

The film has been talked about in reference to O Brother Where Art Thou as the connection is music but unlike O Brother, Inside Llewyn Davis features about 8 complete songs. There is a particular scene where Llewyn has reached Chicago in order to perform for a producer and he decides to sing a very sorrowful song that he knows isn't commercial but he sings so well. It's really beautiful scene, especially as it is performed in an empty music hall.

In the trailer for the film, it seems that Llewyn's troubles begin when he accidentally lets the cat out of his friend's apartment when he leaves so has to carry the cat around with him, most of the time. Now, this cat, I thought wasn't a major part of the film, but since seeing the film I had decided that the cat is in fact a living metaphor for Llewyn himself. Without giving too much away, there are in fact two cats in the film, both have significance.

I was desperate to ask a question and it was going to be about the cat, but alas someone got there before me.

A truly amazing film and I would dare to say not a typical Coen experience. The dialogue and the characters are all there, including some mild violence but overall, a new kind of Coen experience.

BFI LFF InsideLlewynDavis

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