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Inside Llewyn Davis: a splendid mix of cinema, music, and politics

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Inside Llewyn Davis

Rating:
Star5
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Although this examiner had never reviewed a film before watching it, there are four reasons why he is doing that for Inside Llewyn Davis: (1) He watched and was held spellbound by the film's superb 80-minute companion concert Another Time Another Day; (2) He has thoroughly enjoyed all of the earlier films by its directors, Joel and Ethan Coen; (3) He has loved the music produced by the film’s characters that was chosen by the brilliant T Bone Burnett; and (4) The film is an in-depth examination of one of the highest points of America’s culture – the early 1960s when music and politics mixed to enter the souls of many Baby Boomers who tried to weather the storm of Cold War paranoia, complacency, and racial discord by listening to (pre-rock) folk music. Folk was based on English, Irish, and early American (think Woody Guthrie) music that inspired activism and an understanding of what America, in the folkies’ view, was meant to be.

Inside Llewyn Davis, which opens in New York and Los Angeles today, Dec, 20, and at other American theaters soon, follows an itinerant folksinger in New York City (think Bob Dylan) who loses himself in a group of musicians and poets in Greenwich Village whose group norms were a hatred of commercialism and big money; a feeling of self-righteousness; and love of simple, democratic, traditional, non-electric music. The folkies huge impact on music (and thought) in the past fifty years is heard in the lyrics of The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young,and those who sing in the film, including Joan Baez, Dave Rawlings, Patti Smith, Gillian Welch, and Jack White.

Your examiner is not the only reviewer to fall in love with this film. My favorite review comes from the UK’s Guardian whose reviewer wrote this of Inside Llewyn Davis: "Audiences just heard a clean, hard crack: the Coen brothers hit one out of the park. The musical interludes are stunning." And he actually watched it. Others (who have seen it) are calling it “a transporting cinematic experience,” that “captures its time, place and tone so well some viewers may feel they've stepped into a time machine.” This examiner will go out on a limb and predict that Inside Llewyn Davis wins Best Picture of 2013.

But be forewarned: although many so-called “Third Agers" (the micro-generation of Baby Boomers born from 1946-1952) will love this film (except for Tea Party members); and neither will Gen X-ers whose parents never connected to the songs of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Dave Van Ronk, or Bob Dylan. Whatever micro-generation or political persuasion the reader is, s/he should at least watch the transcendent Another Time, Another Day, if not Inside Llewyn Davis. It is on Showtime until January 15; or at the very least, watch the trailer or buy the CD of the film’s music. You’ll be glad you did.

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