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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect masterpiece from the Coen Brothers, 27 Jun 2014
This review is from: Inside Llewyn Davis [Blu-ray] [2014] (Blu-ray)
The Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" follows a week in the life of a frustrated folk singer (partly modeled on the real life Dave Van Ronk) in the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961, when the beat generation is giving way to the hippy movement.

This strikes me as a cinematic masterpiece that walks a thin tightrope between being darkly melancholic, absurdly comic, as well as life affirming, and I found it to be one of the smartest and most profound works of existential art ever produced in any medium. The moral journey of Llewyn Davis (maybe the Coens' greatest character) through what seems to be the worst week of his life serves as a metaphor of the human condition. In fact, his journey is really his 'Odyssey' (to emphasize this, the wonderful cat in the film -- Llewyn's closest relationship -- is named 'Ulysses'). I even think of the myth of Sisyphus (existential? ...think Camus' "Myth of Sisyphus"!) spending his life working repeatedly to push a huge boulder up a steep mountain to have it keep rolling back down again). Like Laurel and Hardy pushing that piano up the countless steps, I see Davis more as someone with whom we can empathize as he continues to crap out; others see him as a slimeball. Take your choice, but I think not to identify with him is to negate the universal meaning of the film.

Appropriately, the film has a muted color palette by the great 56-year-old French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (known for his images of 'fantastic realism' for Jean-Pierre Jeunet films like "Amelie" and "A Very Long Engagement"). It provides the perfect melancholic mood for the protagonist's journey and Delbonnel consciously worked to replicate the look and feel of the cover of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" record album, succeeding to make the film appear "slushy" as a New York City winter.

It has a sense of deep humanity in every performance (especially Oscar Isaac as the serious-minded, existential 'hero' who conveys brilliantly his interaction with the other people around him), a wonderfully evocative song score (most of which is recorded live), and not a single false scene or shot thanks to Joel and Ethan Coen's cinematic mastery. It deservedly won the Grand Prix Award at the Cannes Film Festival, was picked by the National Society of Film Critics as the year's best film, and is easily my choice as the finest film of 2013.

As far as the transfer, the muted and 'slushy' look of the film ironically requires Blu-ray because of its clarity. I find the DVD doesn't do justice to the film even though the transfer is probably perfect. Also, the Blu-ray has a wonderful 42-minute documentary on the film's making (spending most of its time on the music recording), so I'd splurge for the Blu-ray.
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