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Getting Llewyn Davis

Tuesday 27 May 2014, 16:29

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

I had big reservations about the Coen Bros’ Inside Llewyn Davis when it was released in the cinema but I’ve just viewed the film for the third time and my opinion has changed...

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Mark Kermode reviews Inside Llewyn Davis

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    Comment number 1.

    To be honest, I didn't like Pulp Fiction the first time I saw it. But having seen it since I have changed my mind.

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    Comment number 2.

    Mark - Stop stressing. It can take quite a while for a film to marinate in one's conciousness. It will probably take more than one sitting for you on this one. I'm still dangling over Terry Malick's 'Tree Of Life.' The opening sequence by Doug Trumball is stunning - It's just the later scenes with Pitt and his son that I still yet have to engage with.

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    Comment number 3.

    Well your review of "Under the Skin" completely nailed it. Not sure I reported back my thoughts on that. Had moments of magic but I just knew Glazer would not be able to make a complete story there: It turned into a lot of (that jazzy artist's word) "installations". The candid camera moments in Glasgow worked like magic however with Johanson: That was truly brilliant.

    And I get the impression you probably got it right too with Inside Lleweyn Davis: "Whimsical" sounds exactly right, not quite what I'd hope for myself, more of a grifter/grafter sort of character out of which beautiful moments emerge. It has a sort of teddy-bear quality to it, think it needs more harshness.

    The Big Lebowski and other Coen films, again I never really take to them, but I appreciate the Coen's sort of showing a alternative American reality going on: I think that always fascinates. I think it's the characterization that all their films develop that makes them great hits with people, Lebowski is one of the their best egs of that.

    My bro bangs on about The Royal Tenenbaums growing on "you" with repeat viewings. Possibly "weird" films work that way ie with less linear story-lines. Generally I find such films too disconnected, being already disconnected viewing things through a camera. Probably one reason I really like YiYi with it's camera shots being very natural iirc. I actually feel like I've been to Taipei/Taiwan after watching that movie. Too much meddling by comparison I feel the maker is trying to force-feed the story or disguise it's deficiencies. Eg Magnolia or Tree of life I run a mile from. I really really hated Burn After Reading; the humor was perhaps too coarse/vulgar and mixed with characters who were grotesques. Rubbed me the wrong way I guess.

    Probably would find Coen movies all of them more enjoyable if I was in a foreign non-English speaking country and then found their pecadilloes and quirks in English highly comforting? Possibly mood plays a big part in their works? Generally find if I don't like a film it does not get better, but I can see how mood can affect what you watch. For eg watching an Ozu in a great independent cinema with other film-goers who you know much have taken time to sniff out where it was playing in London and with a pint of beer to see you drift through the slow paen to some idyllic Japanese bygone days... ! Without the mood (& full pint) it would be interminably boring.

    Btw any Londoners or Cat lovers, this may interest you: A Street Cat Named Bob - short documentary ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MePaWG7g5FA

    no idea if it's related to ILD ?

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    Comment number 4.

    I like to think this was down to me, at a Hatchet Job night in Hatfield when Mark was signing my books I told him that I thought it was the best film of last year. He acknowledged and said he just didn't get it. Your welcome Mark

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    Comment number 5.

    Mark, you mentioned award season when every movie is proceeded by a drum beat of praise and hype, consequentially the weight of expectation is that the film will be great. I had a similar experience with 12 Years A Slave, i'd seen the trailer endlessly in the weeks before, i knew it had been a huge sensation in America and there had even been a Kermode Uncut blog saying it was probably the best film of the year. So that when i eventually saw it, i didn't have the same visceral experience that many others did. Although i'm sure that with repeat viewings i'll discover new depths in Steve McQueen's storytelling.

    As for 'Llewyn Davis' i had much the same reaction as you, but then not every film reveals all it's pleasures on the first viewing, especially those of the Coen Brothers. But then my favourite is The Man Who Wasn't There, which no one but me seems to get.

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    Comment number 6.

    I had the same experience years ago with Millers Crossing. I don't know if it was to do with not being tuned to the Coen's style or humour. All I knew was "This isn't Goodfellas or The Godfather!". Now I swear by the film...Love it.

    A Serious Man - I just don't get it....yet.

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    Comment number 7.

    I haven't seen the film but I have to ask - Llewelyn Davies was I think the exact name of a woman whose children inspired J.M.Barrie to write Peter Pan. Is there any connection to the movie?

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    Comment number 8.

    it's definitely a grower - once i heard the "he is a cat metaphor" i really liked it

    but i dont want the coens to think they are back on form that easy

    they still have a lot to make up for

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    Comment number 9.

    Glad you're finally coming round. This was not only the best film of last year, not only the Coens' best, but is actually my favourite film of all time. Considering I thought it could never live up to my extraordinarily high expectations, I was pleasantly surprised, and was surprised again when it was just as good when I saw it again only 6 days later. I look forward to watching it again now I have it on DVD.

    However, Barton Fink and A Serious Man I have also seen twice, and still don't get, particularly the former; much to admire, hard to like. Where have I heard that before...?

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    Comment number 10.

    I saw Llewyn Davis once and thought on balance that it was the best Coen brothers' film I'd seen. I've pretty much disliked all the others. I thought that Llewyn Davis was alright; I got through it without feeling completely alienated - the cat did a good job and I could sympathise with the suffering of the wife. I don't think award season has anything to do with it, because Ethan and Joel are generally singing in a different language to me and I don't really like the tune. I don't think I'll be buying the DVD this time.

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    Comment number 11.

    I'm a big Coen brothers fan, but must admit that on first seeing Llewyn Davis I was initially a bit disappointed. Whilst I enjoyed it, my initial disappointment stemmed from comparing it to their previous work such as The Man Who Wasn't There (their masterpiece), No Country, Fargo, Lebowski etc.
    Although on reflection, being the fifth best Coen brothers film still makes it better than most other films out there. I'll probably get it on dvd and I expect it will stand up favourably to repeat viewings.

    On a sidenote, I've been enjoying the recent Fargo tv series very much. I know it's not made by the Coens themselves (although I think they're listed as exec producers in the credits) but it reminded me how much I enjoy being immersed in the worlds that they create.

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    Comment number 12.

    I, too, didn't 'get' this when it first came out, but unlike you I don't want to go back and give it another try because it so underwhelmed me the first time. So many movies, so little time, so why waste it rewatching films you didn't like?

    Yes, ILD is a fair enough sort of film, but best film of the year? Not by a long stretch. I think the Coens have reached that stage where people think they can do no wrong, well just let me say what no one else is saying: Most of their movies don't have endings! Instead of coming up with a decent third act, they just fizzle out at the end of act two.

    On Film 2014 the critic on there was also wetting herself about how good ILD was and she said there's this brilliant bit with his wet sock...

    Yes, he steps in a puddle, goes into a bar and takes his shoe off and his sock is wet. Someone please explain to me how that is brilliant. I think I saw the same thing happen on Eastenders once, but I don't remember the critics singling it out as the scene of the year.

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    Comment number 13.

    I liked ILD (is that a new nervous condition, or a special effects house?), but found it uneven (even by Coen's standards). On the plus side, some of it plays out as some of their most naturalistic stuff, but then larger than the screen John Goodman comes along, as if from another more arch Coen opus. As a portrait of the milieu, time and place, it really succeeds, and fitfully as a study of a talent that keeps getting in the way of himself.

    The Coens are well known for their, at times arch, style. Bristling sharp dialogue, acute camera angles, often their films seem to be more about how clever they are about making films. I highly rate A Serious Man because, for once, it seems to be about something (unknowability of god or fate), and they toned it down just enough to make their Job's nightmare realistic. Sometimes heavy style can really work, Wes Anderson may be hit or miss, but Grand Budapest Hotel found the perfect fit for his detail deviltry. With ILD I'm reminded of what Spielberg said about filming Lincoln (memory fuzzy, paraphrasing heavily), that he'd dialed down his dramatic flourishes, filming more simply to serve the material. ILD could have been a better film, but the Coen's keep getting in the way of themselves.

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    Comment number 14.

    @Harry Limes Shadow My fav Coens is The Man Who Wasn't There as well

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    Comment number 15.

    I have only seen Llewyn Davis once, and I loved it. I actually love every film the Coens have ever made, with the exception of The Ladykillers (which isn't isn't without its moments, although it is a pointless reworking of the Ealing classic).

    On the other hand, there are films it has taken a few viewings to fall in love with. Vertigo is a good example. The first time I saw it I thought Hitchcock had let the cat out of the bag too early, but every subsequent viewing has underlined the importance of having the big reveal earlier to make the obsession and tragedy that much more powerful.

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    Comment number 16.

    There are several films I haven't enjoyed or thought were very good on first viewing, with their opinion changing subsequently. Recently, I watched Saving Mr Banks, which I saw in the cinema with certain expectations and knowledge of the real PL Travers and found myself disappointed. But, watching the Blu-ray at home, I enjoyed it a great deal more and found much more in the film to appreciate.

    Several years ago, I saw Blood on Satan's Claw for the first time and, possibly because I wanted to like it and see it as a masterpiece of British horror, wondered what the fuss was all about and crucially found some scenes unintentionally amusing. Sometime later, I watched it again and was caught up in the weirdness and very creepy atmosphere, which accentuated the script, performances and overall viewing experience. When I saw it again a couple of days ago, it improved again.

    As for Inside Llewyn Davis, I'm really looking forward to watching it when it's available for home viewing on Monday as I'm intrigued to see how my feelings about a change and whether I'm still slightly underwhelmed or whether, like with Barton Fink, it improves and becomes one of my favourite Coen brothers films.

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    Comment number 17.

    I have only seen ILD once,and it had a lot of things going for it, the big problem for me were the other characters in the film, Mulligan's Character was awful and uninteresting, couldn't see the point in John Goodman's character at all. I do own all the Coen brothers films apart from the terrible one's, Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers and Burn after reading. I didn't get Barton Fink the first time I watched it and that took a few viewings, now it is one of my favourites. So I will revisit ILD a couple of more times.

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    Comment number 18.

    Still think the only good Coen Brothers film is Blood Simple, rest are meah.

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    Comment number 19.

    Like all Coens movies and especially this, it is so effortless and subtle that I think many tend to overlook some of the more profound things going on (which are very deliberately placed). I think this is a direct result of the Coen Brothers persona who, unlike Quentin Tarantino for example, don't preach about their greatness or the important things in their films, in fact they run in the opposite direction. That for me allows people to simply take their films as pure entertainment; in the case of Llewyn Davis, judging by the trailer and interviews - a comedy with a funny cat and some good songs but there is something more powerful and melancholic going on but something that doesn't reveal itself immediately.

    I would also like to say one more thing - Mark has been talking about the overlong running time of movies a lot, calling out the indulgences of directors, saying that kind of tongue in cheek line about most filmmakers needing a producer with a big stick shouting "90 minutes or nothing." As people who direct, write, produce and edit all their movies, the fact the Coens have never made a film over 2 hours (with the exception of No Country for Old Men, running at 122 minutes) is something to always be celebrated no?

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    Comment number 20.

    I am guided, but not entirely influenced, by the 'flagship' radio programme. At the time of Mark's cool response to ILD, I was intrigued enough by the trailers and snippets of the film to go and see it. I'm glad I did, and add it to the other Coen films I've enjoyed over the years.

    TBL has always been a big belly-laugh for me over the years, so it's clear we enjoy different aspects of the good brothers' catalogue.

    BTW, I saw 'Non-Stop' the other night. We do agree on that!


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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

This twice-weekly video blog is the place where he airs his personal views on the things that most fire him up about cinema - and invites you to give your own opinions.

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