starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake
written and directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
by Walter Chaw I love the Coen Brothers, despite my suspicion that most of their movies don't think much of me at all. What's often read as disdain for their characters I've read mainly as antipathy for their audience: I believe they like their characters just fine, it's just that they could give a shit about your opinion of what happens to them. I love the Coens for their literary acumen, for their fine ability to understand not simply the form of genre--and, in their adaptations, of authors--but the entire function as well. They don't just adapt Cormac McCarthy and Charles Portis novels, they adapt those writers' entire bodies of work. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a remarkable retelling of The Odyssey, for instance, because in addition to following the outlines of the poem, it adapts its themes and storytelling strategies; it's a dissection and a representation and glorious, of course. They return now to The Odyssey--or, at least, to the character of Odysseus--in Inside Llewyn Davis, a picture set in 1961, among the bohos and coffee shops of a Greenwich Village on the verge of Bob Dylan and the counterculture, and it's populated with lost souls in overlapping underworlds. Transpose that passage from Homer where Odysseus fills troughs with sheeps' blood to draw the undead (and finds his poor deceased mother there at her drink) to scenes in Pappi's (Max Casella) infernal nightclub as proto-hipsters and neo-beatniks assemble blandly on the edge of a trembling something while performers bleed out before them. In rituals for new gods, after all, there must be lambs to slaughter.