Inside Llewyn Davis ★★★★

It's not a gimmick or an ironic twist that a shadowy figure of Bob Dylan appears onstage in the final moments of Inside Llewyn Davis. On a certain level, the sight of the man can provide a certain trainspotting amusement for viewers who have enjoyed the Coens' exacting reconstruction of the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 1960s. (It could also function as the Coens' nod to their colleague Todd Haynes. Dylan doesn't need to play any explicit role in their film because, intellectually, ILD is a kind of prequel to Haynes' Dylan film I'm Not There.) But more importantly, Dylan appears on the stage of the Gaslight as a harbinger. Dylan is a world historical figure, and if Llewyn Davis cannot quite understand why his music fails to connect (with audiences, with record buyers, with Chicago impresario Bud Grossman, played with benevolent imperiousness by F. Murray Abraham), the Coens understand all too well. Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) is seen by those around him as a loser and an asshole, but Inside Llewyn Davis never falls into this trap.

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