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Non-Review Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis is great examination of a singer drifting through American music scene in the sixties, starting in Greenwich before embarking on a cross-country tour and then ending up right back where he started.

One of the nicer cinematic tricks employed by the Coen Brothers is a delightful sense of deja vu at the end of the movie. There’s a step backwards in time towards the start of the film, but also a sense that it’s so subtle you might be forgiven for missing it. After all, it doesn’t matter too much. The eponymous Llewyn Davis is an artist caught in a particular groove, stuck on repeat; despite his protestations to the contrary, he is a performing monkey who ultimately only knows one or two numbers that seem to resonate with the audience.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a melancholy examination of personal and professional failure, delivered in the Coens’ trademark tragicomic style. There’s a sense that the world itself has a cruel sense of humour, structuring a joke at the expense of Llewyn. The film doesn’t rank among the Coen Brothers’ best work, and it’s certainly not an instant classic, feeling too disconnected and occasionally too cynical to rank with with the best of their output. At the same time, a middle-tier Coen Brothers’ film is still well worth a look.

Sing when you're winning... ... or when you're not...

Sing when you’re winning…
… or when you’re not…

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Non-Review Review: Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings feels like several different films all rolled into one. Is it an English major detective story about investigating one ruthless act through character and theme and other literary devices? Is it a coming of age story about a young man finding himself at college in New York City against the back drop of the Second World War? Is it a condemnation of the recklessness and the irreverence of the young Beat movement? Is it a standard college adventure story about young students sticking it to the man, and refusing to let authority figures tell them how to live their lives?

Kill Your Darlings is most interesting in the space between the familiar genre trappings, when it focuses on the characters at the dawn of the emerging literary movement. Indeed, the spirit of the film is best captured in one drug-induces segue in which our characters find themselves slipping between the reality and existing in a gap between moments. Kill Your Darlings is by turns romantic and cynical in its handling of Allen Ginsberg and his development as a young artist, featuring a wealth of superb central performances which can’t quite hold the film together.

Given the literary cut-up technique that we see the gang experiment with here, it feels strangely appropriate that Kill Your Darlings should be an uneven mess of a film, with a wealth of great ideas existing in the space between plot and tone and substance and reality. It just doesn’t make for a particularly satisfying film.

Talkin' 'bout the Beat Generation...

Talkin’ ’bout the Beat Generation…

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