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Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett, Max Casella
Writing Credits:
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

A week in the life of a young singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.

Box Office:
$11 million.
Opening Weekend
$405.411 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$13.072 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.851
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 1/19/2016

• Audio Commentary with Authors Robert Christgau, David Hajdu and Robert Wilentz
• “Inside Inside Llewyn Davis” Documentary
• “The First Hundred Feet, The Last Hundred Feet” Conversation
• “Another Day, Another Time” Documentary
• “The Way of Folk” Conversation
• “Before the Flood” Interview
Sunday 1961 Documentary
• Trailers
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Inside Llewyn Davis: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 13, 2016)

Set in Greenwich Village circa 1961, Inside Llewyn Davis follows the title character (Oscar Isaac), a folk singer. He used to be part of a duo but now works as a solo artist who struggles to find an audience.

Beyond Llewyn’s lack of commercial success, a variety of factors complicate his life. Llewyn learns that his ex-girlfriend Jean (Carey Mulligan) is pregnant and the baby might be his, not her current boyfriend Jim’s (Justin Timberlake). Llewyn’s sister Joy (Jeanine Serralles) encourages him to return to his steady job in the Merchant Marines, but he prefers to pursue his artistic muse. We see developments that occur over a one-week span in terms of Llewyn’s life and career.

Going into Davis, I can’t say I did so with much enthusiasm. A flick about an early 1960s folk singer not named “Bob Dylan” didn’t do much to entice me, and while I respect writers/directors Joel and Ethan Coen, I can’t claim I’ve ever been a big fan of their work.

Davis doesn’t change my view, but I think it walks the “good Coen” side of the street. I admit I’m not wild about their more overtly “wacky” efforts, as I think their skewed sensibility can seem forced.

This means I prefer the Coens when they nod toward that tone but don’t wholeheartedly embrace it, and that becomes the case here. Davis clearly comes from the Coen POV, but it never goes down the farcical path some of their work follows. It’s a drama with comedic elements, and the two sides mesh well. The comedy veers toward the self-consciously silly at times, but it never quite gets there, and the movie fares better because of this.

I’ve heard Davis described as a “cold” movie in terms of its tone, and I agree with that. Viewers will probably find it tough to engage in the lead character because he remains fairly caustic and unlikable from start to finish. We see Llewyn go through changes, but these fail to soften him; while we see glimmers of a compassionate human, these remain pretty well buried.

And I’m fine with that. I don’t need every movie I watch to have loveable personalities – the world doesn’t work that way, so I’m happy to watch something with a lead who lacks especially likable traits.

It’s not like Davis goes out of its way to make Llewyn a jerk, though. While he comes across as generally unpleasant, the movie depicts him in a realistic manner, as we sense that his behaviors largely result from his struggles.

The tale doesn’t spoonfeed us backstory, but we get enough dollops to reveal a character who seems to have experienced plenty of setbacks and disappointments. Add to that the harsh nature of the music business as well as the myopia required to succeed and we can buy into Llewyn’s harshness.

To his credit, Isaac does nothing to soften the character’s rough edges. He doesn’t go out of his way to compound Llewyn’s flaws, but he doesn’t back away from the nastiness, either. Isaac brings us a believable, compelling take on a difficult role.

The other actors do well, too, though I admit Mulligan’s less than convincing American accent can be a distraction. Still, she brings a certain kind of heart to a character who could’ve been one-dimensional, and all the other performers add spark to their parts as well. (Viewing Davis in 2016 makes it unintentionally amusing to see Isaac and Adam Driver together, given their roles in The Force Awakens.)

Inside Llewyn Davis gives us a difficult piece, as it comes with an unlikable lead and little actual plot. Nonetheless, it delivers a consistently involving drama about a specific place and time.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

Inside Llewyn Davis appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image reproduced the source material well.

Sharpness seemed positive. At times the elements looked a little soft, but that stemmed from the style of photography on display, which gave the movie a lightly gauzy feel. Overall delineation remained strong. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. No problems with source flaws caused distractions, as the movie remained free from defects.

With a subdued palette at work, not many colors cropped up in Davis. The movie tended toward a drab gray/green tint; within those parameters, the colors were decent. Blacks remained dense, and shadows were clear and smooth. This was a “B+” presentation.

One wouldn’t expect slam-bang audio from a folk music-oriented character piece like Davis, and the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack remained appropriately subdued. As expected, music dominated, so the many songs showed good stereo spread and involvement.

Otherwise, this remained a low-key mix. Effects cropped up in a few circumstances such as streets and subways, and they added a bit of minor pep at times. These instances didn’t bring a lot of pizzazz to the package, though, as the track stayed appropriately laid-back much of the time.

Audio quality seemed pleasing. Dialogue came across as natural and concise, and effects showed good accuracy. As noted, those elements didn’t have much to do, but they seemed realistic. Music was warm and full as well. This was an unambitious but satisfactory soundtrack.

The Blu-ray duplicates the sole extra from the original DVD: a documentary called Inside Inside Llewyn Davis. It runs 42 minutes, 50 seconds and includes comments from writers/producers/director Ethan and Joel Coen, Mayor of MacDougal Street author Elijah Wald, executive music producer T-Bone Burnett, costume designer Mary Zophres, associate music producer Marcus Mumford, musician Chris Thile, production designer Jess Gonchor, director of photography Bruno Delbonnel and actors Oscar Isaac, John Goodman, Stark Sands, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham and Garrett Hedlund.

The show looks at the movie’s origins and inspirations, period elements, music, cast and performances, sets and locations, costumes and visual design, and some other areas. “Inside” doesn’t bring us an exhaustive view of the production, but it covers the major topics well. We find a nice overview of the relevant areas and learn a reasonable amount along the way.

The remaining extras are new to the Criterion release, and we launch with an audio commentary from authors Robert Christgau, David Hajdu and Robert Wilentz. Christgau and Wilentz chat together, while Hajdu’s separate remarks get edited into theirs. The commentary looks at music, characters and their historical antecedents, historical elements and period details.

We learn little about the actual production, which makes sense since none of those involved worked on the film. Instead, we find a good examination of the folk scene and related historical elements. Though the track occasionally sags, it usually provides an informative look at the movie’s background.

With The First Hundred Feet, The Last Hundred Feet, we get a 40-minute, 48-second conversation between the Coen brothers and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. They discuss influences, cinematography, and aspects of various Coen films from Blood Simple through Davis. I like the chance to hear del Toro chat with the Coens, and this becomes in informative, literate discussion.

Next comes a documentary called Another Day, Another Time. It runs one hour, 41 minutes, 11 seconds as it focuses on a 2013 folk music concert in NYC. The show features performances from Punch Brothers, Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings Machine, Colin Meloy, Avett Brothers, Rhiannon Giddens, Jack White, Oscar Isaac, the Milk Carton Kids, Lake Street Dive, Willie Watson, Joan Baez, Marcus Mumford and Patti Smith.

Interspersed with the concert performances, we get some comments from Isaac, Meloy, Giddens, Mumford, Milk Carton Kids, and musician Chris Thile. We also learn a little about the recording of the movie’s soundtrack and see aspects of those sessions.

How much one likes “Time” will depend entirely on one’s enjoyment of the music. The behind the scenes tidbits occupy little of the documentary’s running time, so we spend most of our time on the concert stage. Since folk isn’t my bag, I don’t get much from “Time”, but fans of the movie’s music will enjoy it.

Another conversation arrives via The Way of Folk. It fills 16 minutes, two seconds with a chat between the Coen brothers and executive music producer T Bone Burnett. They cover the movie’s music. We get an interesting look at the various tunes featured in the film, though it wanders off to odd tangents too much of the time.

Called Before the Flood, we get a 19-minute, four-second interview with author Elijah Wald. He worked with folksinger Dave Van Ronk on the latter’s memoirs, so Wald talks about the folk performers and atmosphere around the film’s time period. Wald offers a good recap of these subjects and creates an informative chat.

In addition to six trailers, we find a 1961 documentary short entitled Sunday. This 17-minute, 10-second piece looks at a demonstration conducted by folk singers in New York City. It creates an interesting archival piece that lets us see a little of the era’s folk scene.

Like all Criterion releases, Davis comes with a booklet. One side of this foldout piece offers a mini-poster, while the other includes an essay from critic Kent Jones. This becomes a nice addition to the set.

In terms of the Coen brothers’ filmography, expect Inside Llewyn Davis to be more in the vein of A Serious Man than The Big Lebowski. While it comes with comedic elements, it takes a more dramatic, character-based path and it does well in that regard, as it delivers a vivid – though chilly – portrait. The Blu-ray offers positive picture and audio as well as an informative collection of supplements. Davis delivers one of the Coens’ more interesting efforts, and the Criterion version represents it well.

To rate this film visit the prior review of INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main