Some Ramblings - Inside Llewyn Davis(2013) by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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Oscar Bait
Fall...trees start turning their colored coats inside out and eventually shed their old wear and gear clearing out their warehouses in what becomes their final blowout season... Coincidentally, it is also time when movie studios bring their artsy features out of the closet, ones that they have held out until the hoarse-y summer's din died down. So snuggle up in the fall jackets and settle down for the Oscar fare where the sensitive battle it out with the subtle, where strong stories stake their ground out in the fertile land of varied imaginations....

What of a career that goes unrealized and unheralded? Yeah...what of it? Nothing...That's exactly what it amounts to when record books are written, nothing. For every career that takes off into the stratosphere, there are thousands as many that stay where they started, firmly rooted to the ground moving at insignificant pace and in unappreciated portions. To a common man trudging through every day life, the fact that his 'career' doesn't go through a significant metamorphosis,eventually ending up only a little further up the road to where it started, is just fine. He would be more than happy to not have to put himself through the rigors of life in the vain pursuit of some elusive achievement. But if it is for someone blessed with some creative spark in an artistic field? Lives of thousands of also-rans that are littered all over the road to success is a pretty common sight in practically every creative field - art, literature, movies, music etc. That has always been a problem with the artistic field, that the appreciation of art or even the idea of what constitutes art in the first place is totally subjective. A scientific achievement has a tangible output where the significance of the result can be rarely disputed. On the other hand, an artistic output very rarely gets universal appeal and agreement. And when entire lives and careers depend upon a few head nods of some higher ups on a product that is amorphous, intangible, subjective, ephemeral and ethereal....well, that explains all the roadkill. The movie 'That thing you do' about a one-hit-wonder band captures it right when the talent manager comments at the breakup of the band, on account of personal egos right in the middle of a successful tour, 'That's ok sonny, it is a very common tale'. While the news of still born bands and haven't quite made it artists burning out and crashing to the ground before ever being run over by the freight train of success is a regular fixture in the headlines, the number would be many times that much of people eager to catch even that one single break, cashing out on that one big opportunity, wishing to be spoiled rotten by the ego trip of success, even if it is for a fleeting time.....only to realize at the end of it all that they never had "it" in the first place. The "it" that made all the difference success and obscurity, the "it" that made lives and careers, the "it" whose definition is as elusive as the description of 'taste'.

Coen brothers' latest outing 'Inside Llewyn Davis' is one such ode to a career that never was, despite all the talent. In fact this is the bravest, if not the most entertaining (in the traditional sense of the word), of all their works till date, charting a career that flatlined before it caught its first break/breath. There are no exhilarating moments here; at no point Llewyn meets someone who knows somebody that could pull him out of his perpetual struggling phase and gift him on a platter the reward and recognition that he so richly deserved; his career becomes a series of hops from misfortune to ill-luck to bad temper to sometimes, just bad timing. IN effect this is the story of the '99%' who barely find a space for themselves in the footnotes of fame and celebrity. Well, if there is nothing special about him, nothing really happens to him and all his life is nothing but a series of unfortunate events and mishaps, why even put his life on the screen at all? There is no easy and satisfying answer to this. Just like Coens' offbeat 'No country for old men' is a long lost twin to the more mainstream 'Fargo', 'Inside..' is a kindred spirit of their previous venture, another torturous drama 'A serious man', in that the both of them bear mute witness to the beating down of their protagonists by forces and circumstances beyond their control with no redemption and respite at the end of it all. Both 'A serious man' and 'Inside...' find their roots firmly in the Old Testament's Book of Job, where God tests Job with one hardship after another with no end in sight, making Job cry out in anguish as to why, inspite being pious and faithful all through his life, he had to endure all this, and the answer from God is the form of stoic silence. So what does it mean, if it is meant to be an allegory or a metaphor, that good or bad, talented or otherwise, faithful or free spirited, in a God-less world or in a God-filled one, trying to string through a meaningful pattern through the random occurrences in life is as pointless and arbitrary as according a value to a work of art and calling in 'taste'.

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