Posts Tagged ‘Coen Brothers’

I saw Coen Brothers’ new film Inside Llewyn Davis at Mumbai Film Festival in October. And i have been looping its soundtrack since then.  The film has released in US now. i saw Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha recently (Yes, yes, i know am late). And strangely, i have been connecting the dots between the two since that day. This is a perfect double bill. I was shouting out how come nobody was talking about this connect, and so this post. Though recently a friend pointed out a similar tweet by a film magazine editor too.


His name begins on strange note L-L. Her ends on funny note – Ha. He wants to sing. She wants to dance. Both have cat issues which starts their story. Both are in New York. And both have the same problem which they are struggling with – to find a roof above the head, and a bed to sleep.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a grim portrayal of a week in the folk singer’s life. His life is fucked up in more ways than one – career going nowhere, a pregnancy to deal with, family members who don’t mean much, a cat to take care of, and worst, not even a bed to fall asleep and forget all these worries. Is there anything worse than that? The world is hazy, and the weather is cold, gloomy, and depressing. It’s a heartbreaking story of an artist where music is the only comforting factor. In Bollywood dictionary, it’s the story of a struggler – a strange term to define any writer, director, actor, or anyone else who is trying his luck but still haven’t got the big break in the industry. As A O Scott wrote in this absolutely brilliant and spot on review of the film (and read the Coens like nobody has done in any ILD review) – “One of the insights of “Inside Llewyn Davis” is that hard work and talent do not always triumph in the end……We are, as a species, ridiculous: vain, ugly, selfish and self-deluding. But somehow, some of our attempts to take stock of this condition — our songs and stories and moving pictures, old and new — manage to be beautiful, even sublime” This city is full of such bleak stories. Yet that has never stopped anyone from becoming another Llewyn Davis, another eternal struggler. Ha!

Frances Ha film is warmer, lighter and funnier than Llewyn Davis. But her life is no better. She is looking for the same comforts – a roof and a bed. Her dancing career is going nowhere, she has no job, no money, her best friend has moved on, she has just separated from her boyfriend, she is very “undateable”, and her family members are far away from her. Frances doesn’t know what to do with her life, and most importantly, how to do it.

Thanks to Coens’ taste for strange black humour, Llewyn’s life seems to be in never ending loop. Frances is lucky that way. Baumbach is not that cold. In a gorgeous climax which turns this film into one of the greatest films on friendship, Frances at least achieves little bit of happiness (not describing it to keep it spoiler free). And Llewyn just gets another hard punch on his face.

If you are an outsider living and “struggling” in Bombay to find an entry point in Bollywood, you will laugh and cry with this double bill. Too many similarities, and the big picture is too scary at times. A hassle free roof and a comforting bed are the most expensive and elusive things in this city. Just another day, a friend landed up in Bombay. And as it always happens, the first call was about good brokers who can help find that roof and bed.  Or you point them to the Flats Without Brokers FB group. Just two days later, she decided to pack her bags and went back to the city from where she came. i don’t know the reasons yet, didn’t bother to ask too. But it made me ponder over many such friends who have come to this city, struggled their way, and have found थोड़ा सा आसमान and a small corner for their bed. If i call it the “Llewyn Davis Condition”, then the comfort syrup can be called “Frances Ha” – strangers who are in similar situation like yours, who have left their roots for similar dreams, who become your family soon, and with whom you develop a bond so strong that it’s impossible to believe that you never grew up with these friends. Where were they all this while? How did you survive without them for so long?

Inside Llewyn Davis and Frances Ha connects more strongly if you are the fringes of any artistic field, and especially if its something to do with films. As i see many such friends with similar stories, all i know is that everything is uncertain till you quit or your name appears in the credit roll one friday. A talented and now-famous lyricist once explained to me why he still prefers working with a loud and pompous producer. He asked me, do you know what an artist want basically? i said, what? To work in peace so that he doesn’t have to think about the bread-butter, bed, and roof. That producer gives me that comfort and i can focus on my art.

So thanks to my “Frances Ha” bunch who helped me survive this city for more than a decade, and if you are new, hopefully you will find your ‘FHa’ friends soon. All you, Ahoy, Sexy!

All i can think that in a parallel world, Llewyn Davis and Frances Ha will meet. He will sing, and she will dance, he will let the cat out, and she will be happy about it. She will shout out Ahoy, Sexy! and he will sing hang me, oh hang me in response. And hopefully, i will be rich enough in that world to give away one of my houses to this duo.

If you haven’t seen, watch these two films. And watch them back to back. Maybe that’s the closest we can get to that wonderful parallel world.


(ps – If possible, do play the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack as you read this)

Anupam, who ? Well, here is Jahan Bakshi on Anupam – I can’t really think of any grandiose ways to describe the unassuming bloke that is Anupam Dhar. So I’ll just say that Sunny, as we often call him – is my senior from the rather eclectic Department of Mass Communications at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, who happens to be a dear friend- and a huge movie-buff himself.  A Coen Brothers fanboy like many of us, Anupam thoroughly enjoyed their new film True Grit, and with this post, hopes to provide some perspective, especially in light of the many rants about it lacking that ‘Coens touch’ and being ‘just another western’.  Read On…

What is True Grit? This was a question I first saw in a review by some Western film critic. As much as I wanted to answer it, I was never sure I could do so simply because it’s almost so indefinable and so very personal. Indeed as I revisited the retelling of Charles Portis’ novel by the Coen Brothers last night, I was again so sure that maybe True Grit is just more than being brave and courageous in the face of adversity. True Grit is being able to stand up to what is right and what is correct; to be able to take things in your own hands when all around you people are shirking away from it. True Grit is fighting for what you believe in and never compromising on that belief. True Grit is Gandhi in his search for freedom but in the way he wanted it, without ever raising a hand when he was being beaten mercilessly by the British Imperialists. True Grit is Mandela, Martin Luther King, Bolivar and many more who have stood up against adversity with a smile and a determination to fight for what they believed. The biggest achievement of film True Grit is a reminder of that; the noblest and strongest of human emotions which often make people triumph over the seemingly insurmountable.

A lot has been said about the film, how it is just “another Western” with nothing new to add to it. Many were expecting the Coens to add a new dimension, maybe make a dark and satirical interpretation of a book, which had already been made into a much loved film. But isn’t the Western about raw human emotions; about those wild times when the gun ruled supreme and human lives were none too important; about the passions that the raw, unchartered and seemingly endless territories of the New World evoked? If that is so, then True Grit succeeds in its intention. It’s a beautiful film and much of that praise must go to Roger Deakins who once again reminds us that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, in this case that of Deakins and his camera. As the camera pans the rough territories, it tells its own story, one of survival and hardships and one where the rule of the jungle reigns supreme.

In one beautiful shot, the film’s protagonists, Mattie Ross and Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn approach a tree to which a man is hung. Neither display any emotion to the scene and their only interest lay in whether the dead man hanging is the man they’re searching for. Life is worth pennies where each man is fighting for his own. The beauty of the film lies in its simplistic narration; where a dark and somber story of courage and revenge is told just as it is, without the intrusion of the directors’ own point of view. In that sense True Grit is not just a story, it is also a study of man’s own brutal instincts and the latent violence that is there in all of us and which threatens to unleash itself at the slightest provocation.

True Grit succeeds a lot because of a wonderful ensemble cast. Led by the towering Jeff Bridges, the cast gives itself off to the film’s characters and brings in them the depth that enriches our experience of the film and makes us sympathise with the characters. Bridges moves far off from John Wayne and gives the character his own personal interpretation resulting in a far more complex character which evolves as the film moves on. Matt Damon is good as well and his Texas Ranger makes a deep mark in the film, especially in the scene where he spanks Mattie and tries to scare her off. Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper shine in their small roles. But this film truly belongs to young Hailee Steinfeld, who as Mattie Ross gives a brilliant performance; one which offers us a vivid picture of the 14 year old girl who wants to avenge her father’s murder. Mattie’s innocence, her resolve, determination, courage and vulnerability is expressed beautifully by Steinfeld which gives her character a larger dimension that was missing from the earlier film. Special mention needs to be made of Production Designer, Jess Gonchor and Costume Designer, Mary Zophres who give the film a beautiful and old world feel. Carter Burwell’s haunting background score adds to the atmosphere of the film. The Coens write and direct the film in the way a Western should be and for once I am very pleased with that. Some films are meant to plainly entertain, some are meant to make you think, but some like True Grit are simply meant to be absorbed and felt. It’s a document of those hard and brutal times and a testimony to the most sublime and also the most dangerous of human emotions. True Grit is, as I had tried to answer before, the heart to stand up and fight.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Coen BrothersThe Brothers are back! what a joy! Aha..we just love them. Name any film of theirs and we bet, we can  watch it one more time. And give us Miller’s Crossing some million times, we still would not get bored.

The first trailer of A Serious Man is out. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. This one looks like Coen Brothers’ version of Synecdoche, New York. Dark, funny, insane. And how often a film’s trailer is cut on the sound of a man’s head being slammed across a wall. We are loving it!

And here is the synopsis of the film, according to Slashfilm…

A Serious Man is the story of an ordinary man’s search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and “F-Troop” is on TV. It is 1967, and Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous colleagues, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry.

While his wife and Sy Ableman blithely make new domestic arrangements, and his brother becomes more and more of a burden, an anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larry’s chances for tenure at the university. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis. Can anyone help him cope with his afflictions and become a righteous person – a mensch – a serious man?