Inside Llewyn Davis Criterion Blu-ray Review
“Inside Llewyn Davis” sticks with you.
Upon its release, “Inside Llewyn Davis” seemed like a rather simple albeit surreal film about a talented but deeply flawed folk musician (Llewyn Davis) who didn’t succeed. Initially, it felt like such a niche subject for the Coen Brothers to tackle, but like any great film, the more you analyzed it the more you realized it was about so much more.
It’s no secret that many films are about triumphs, but “Inside Llewyn Davis” doesn’t take that route. Instead, it’s a decidedly grounded story about something we rarely ever see on the big screen- a story of someone who never made it big. Sure, it’s a downer, but as a character study and a portrait of a starving artist, it comes across as honest and fascinating. Of course, the film is about more than just that as the Coen Brothers explore subjects such as the 60’s folk music scene, art, and a bygone era.
Part of the film’s lasting appeal is without a doubt the incredible soundtrack featuring Dave Van Ronk covers (of whom the film is very loosely based on) and original music by T Bone Burnett and Marcus Mumford. While I could go on and on about the songs, you need only listen to tunes like “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me,” “Please Mr. Kennedy,” and “Fare Thee Well” to understand why it’s so good.
Another reason “Inside Llewyn Davis” works is because of the amazing cast. Before they became became superstars in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver made a big impression in this film. While Driver’s role is small, but memorable, Isaac is the star of the film. He burst onto the scene with this layered performance and it’s not surprising in the least to see that his career has skyrocketed ever since. Not only does he make Llewyn Davis a charismatic talented jerk, but his ability to actually play instruments and sing elevated his performance even further. ‘Davis’ also boasts a couple of memorable supporting turns by the always reliable Carey Mulligan and the versatile Justin Timberlake.
Note: After its theatrical debut, “Inside Llewyn Davis” was given a fairly bare bones DVD and Blu-ray edition. Now, in 2016, Criterion has given fans a new supped up release filled with brand new bonus features and a fantastic new transfer.
Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital transfer is flat-out gorgeous. The lighting and cinematography really pop here.
Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? From the music to the dialogue, this DTS track is brimming with life.
* A fold out booklet that doubles as a poster and an essay by writer/author Kent Jones.
* 6 “Inside Llewyn Davis” trailers.
* The 43 minute Inside “Inside Llewyn Davis” bonus feature from the previous home video release.
* “The First Hundred Feet, The Last Hundred Feet”- A 40 minute conversation between director Guillermo del Toro and Joel and Ethan Coen that delves into cinema, the Coen’s filmography, directorial style, and more. A film geek’s dream.
* “Another Day, Another Time”- A delightful 98 minute concert film featuring the music of “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Performances by the likes of Joan Baez, Marcus Mumford, Patti Smith, Jack White and Oscar Isaac are included.
* “The Way of Folk”- A 16 minute conversation with T Bone Burnett and the Coen Brothers including some animated segments. Discussions include the origins of “Fare Thee Well,” Dave Van Ronk, authenticity, Bob Dylan, folk music, and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
* “Before The Flood”- Elijah Wald (who worked on Dave Van Ronk’s memoir) talks about the folk scene in NY, certain locations, the 60’s, etc.
* “Sunday”- A 1961 short 17 minute documentary about a folk music demonstration.
* A commentary by 3 authors (Robert Christgau, David Hajdu, and Sean Wilentz.
Overall Thoughts: “Inside Llewyn Davis” only gets better with age. It is fast becoming one of my favorite Coen Brothers films.
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