City Limits

Films seen in London, England — (slight spoilers for INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) —

You could play a pretty good drinking game with LONE SURVIVOR, the worrisome Afghanistan conflict story. Simply take a shot anytime any character says something optimistic (e.g., “We’re going to be OK,”) and then gets shot in the foot. A shot for a shot. You would die of alcohol poisoning before the halfway mark.



Clarification: by “pretty good drinking game” I mean “something you should not do, ever.”

The movie is excitingly-staged warnography, and gave me a very bad feeling.

Inside Llewyn Davis: teaser trailer - video

One way of looking at INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is as the feline version of Clint Eastwood’s THE CHANGELING.

Another way of looking at it is this — a common narrative trope of films made in the early sixties, when this film is set, but particularly in the UK (e.g. SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, A TASTE OF HONEY), is that whenever anybody has sex they get pregnant (if they’re a woman). Cue backstreet abortion and misery. Joy must not go unpunished, especially if you’re working class (this “yes, but” model informs socially conscious narratives from LAND WITHOUT BREAD and LOS OLVIDADOS to the present day: every silver lining must have its cloud). The question of birth control simply does not arise, since in that primitive age condoms were unmentionable. We don’t wonder about Albert Finney knocking up Rachel Roberts, I think it is (married to another man — did this directly inspire Carey Mulligan’s predicament in ILD?), despite his being characterised as someone experienced and aware of the biological processes. In INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS we do wonder about it a bit, especially as Carey Mulligan has a big speech about condoms and how Llewyn should be permanently wrapped in one, and especially as we learn this has happened before. Drunkenness, sure, and the guy’s kind of a dick, but still…

Actually, apart from the who serial impregnator thing, and some nasty heckling of another act late in the story, Llewyn’s dickishness seemed entirely justified to me. Maybe that’s why I’m not a bigger success in life. The only person he doesn’t offend, really, is F. Murray Abraham (always a welcome face, with the best scene in the film) — I guess because Abraham makes it clear he’s not offering any help. Llewyn only alienates people who might help him. Is that a character trait or a plot device?


London, until Saturday. Hoping to meet regular Shadowplayer Anne Billson, who’s passing through the big smoke too, on Saturday. Expect pictures! Possibly involving skulls. But the purpose of the trip is even more groovy, if such a thing were possible. Not sure when I’ll be able to tell you…

11 Responses to “City Limits”

  1. David Boxwell Says:

    Neither Curtis Reeves nor Chad Oulson got to see LONE SURVIVOR at a theatre in Tampa Florida, even though they paid the price of admission . . .

    (film is yet another maudlin rendition of the “noblility” of America’s misadventures in the Islamic world).

  2. I had huge problems with it, very little connected to the filming or acting, all to do with the choices of story to tell and who to associate with. The Afghan villagers make the strongest choice and have the most at stake, but the film is not able to be interested in them because it has to be about the Americans.

  3. The only character I worried about in ILD was the cat.

    Here’s my take on the thing

  4. La Faustin Says:

    “A young Scotsman of your ability let loose upon the world with £300, what could he not do? It ‘s almost appalling to think of; especially if he went among the English.” (J.M. Barrie, What Every Woman Knows)

  5. The Coens are quite good at deflecting an audience’s concern — they made the audience forget about the child who is orphaned in Fargo. They make the audience forget about the cat it spends so much time with in ILD. They did say that at a certain point in writing it they decided the guy needed a cat — he wouldn’t be very appealing at all alone.

  6. They always flatter their audiences by creating characters we’re encouraged to feel superior to.

  7. But doesn’t all comedy do this? The difference is the level of empathy. We know Laurel & Hardy are dumb. And we know they will mess up every situation. But in some way we love them.

    People love the Dude, and they love Marge, but there’s always a slight question as to whether their creators feel the same warmth.

  8. No. Lubitsch NEVER makes us feel superior to his characters — even at their most abject, like the great Frank Morgan in “The Shop Around the Corner.” In many ways he’s a silly, deluded man, but Lubitsch insists on imparting nobility to him.

    Seemingly a world away none of the characters in “Shampoo” is regarded as meriting scorn — even Jack Warden’s Lester who fails to recognize Warren’s George screwing his mistress Jackie (Julie Christie) right before his eyes. The Coens would render him stupid and grotesque.

    And look at Eugene Pallette in The Lady Eve — a roughneck AND a True Gent.

    These are just three examples off the top of my head.

  9. Morgan is a tragic character in Shop, in his private life. In his running of the store he is often comic — it’s a beautifully balanced piece of writing, playing, direction. To recognise him as funny (or Jack Benny or Carole Lombard in To Be or Not To Be) we have to recognise that he’s in error. But the characters earn our respect in many other ways.

    Comedy is generally about flaws, but flawed people can earn our love. A good thing too, as we’re all flawed.

  10. Here I go, off on my secret mission. Wish me luck.

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