Inside Llewyn Davis
Timothy Hampton holds the Aldo Scaglione and Marie M. Burns Distinguished Professorship and is former director of the Townsend Center for the Humanities at UC Berkeley. His 2019 study, Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work, offered a pathbreaking account of the intersection of lyric and musical form in Dylan’s work.
Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund,
Set in New York City in 1961, on the cusp of the efflorescence of the American folk music scene, the Coens’ 2013 film depicts the eponymous folk singer’s struggle to reconcile his calling with the need to survive. Grieving the loss of his musical partner and proceeding to alienate everyone he encounters, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) navigates the chilly city from downtown to uptown to the outer boroughs and beyond, accompanied on his picaresque journey by an aptly named cat. Davis’s fruitless meanderings reinforce his existential alienation, but the beauty of the songs he sings contradicts his cynicism and suggests a glimmer of hope.