Friday, February 14, 2014

Four Micks and Grandma Moses

Llewyn and Ulysses
Inside Llewyn Davis - the Coen Brothers latest film - has been getting mixed reviews. In the Guardian Mark Kermode is equivocal whereas his colleague Peter Bradshaw is downright enthusiastic.  Stuck in town yesterday between appointments I decided to check it out at the IFI.  It's the best place in Dublin to watch movies, far from the madding crowd's ignoble popcorn.  It's also the kind of place you can go on your own without feeling like Billy no mates.

I loved the film from start to finish. There were occasional glib moments (the surly car driver lighting up minutes after telling our hero he had none left) but these were vastly outweighed by many magic moments. As our aspirant musician travelled down his melancholy slide into oblivion we were well entertained along the way - both moved and amused.  I can't remember when I laughed so much at a film.  In one scene at a folk club he rails drunkenly at an act that is clearly based on the Clancy Brothers (but uglier and with appalling unmatching Aran sweaters). They are followed by an elderly fat woman playing (God help us all) a zither.  As he's thrown out he discourages newcomers from entering by describing the fare as "four micks and Grandma Moses".  There's also an hilarious road trip to Chicago with John Goodman playing a monstrous character who could be mistaken for Dr. John. The film is lit in a very melancholy and subdued way - the colour of constant disappointment.  The clubs, cheap apartments and agents' offices are pitch perfect. One of the recurring joys is the cast of peripheral characters - every one straight out of Diane Arbus's book of freaks.  Note particularly the ones he encounters at the uptown apartment of an elderly fan.  A part of the fun for old folkies is identifying the real-life parallels.  Is that Tom Paxton?  Peter, Paul and Mary? The film concludes with our hero in the gutter and the sound of Bob Dylan issuing from the nearby club.  Winners and losers. And by the way Llewyn gets everything he deserves for abandoning the cat.