At some point during the opening third of Bob Dylan’s autobiography, Chronicles, he describes Greenwich Village during the winter of 1961 as follows: “T.S. Eliot wrote a poem once where there were people walking to a fro, and everybody taking the opposite direction was appearing to be running away.” This is the Greenwich Village that Joel and Ethan Coen seem consumed with, a perennially cold and unforgiving stretch of Babylon where self-interests rule the roost. In true Coen fashion, Inside Llewyn Davis nails it, separating myth from reality. All the early folk scene staples are accounted for – The Gaslight and Gerde’s, Cafe Wha?, The Kettle of Fish, Bob Dylan and The Clancys, Albert Grossman, Dave Van Ronk … an entire movement tuning its pitch inside the confines of some club. Basement cabarets represent the sole means of communication throughout Llewyn Davis, outlets which provide a voice for the voiceless, a soapbox for the soul. Otherwise, the entire landscape feels barren, a bleak and guileless palette void of virtue or compassion. Llewyn Davis isn’t Joel and Ethan Coen’s finest moment, and it really doesn’t need to be. It’s entertainment enough watching the two of them thread the needle, this time chronicling the foibles of yet another hapless cat, just trying to make his way back home.
(Inside LLewyn Davis opens in limited release today, with a national release scheduled for next Friday.)