Went to see the new Coen Brothers’ film, Inside Llewyn Davis, the tale of a moderately successful American folk singer in 1961, on the cusp of the Bob Dylan era. After the death of his duo partner, Llewyn is trying to make it in Greenwich Village as a solo artist. The title of his new album, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, poignantly assumes that the public is interested in knowing what goes on in his mind. In fact, we don’t really get to know the answer.
For musicians, there are many poignant moments in the film, but one which struck a chord with me was the scene in which Llewyn visits his agent to check on ‘progress’ and is handed a box of his own unsold LP records. Llewyn has no car, so he carries the box around with him until he can dump it at a friend’s house, where he’s staying the night on the couch. His friend is a moderately successful folk singer too. Looking for a place to put the LPs where they won’t be a nuisance, Llewyn lifts up the tablecloth on a corner table and shoves the box underneath, only to find that there is something in the way. He looks to see what. It’s a box of his friend’s unsold records.
Later, Llewyn tries to do something to improve his own situation. Knowing that his agent had sent one of his solo records to a powerful club promoter in Chicago, he drives all the way to Chicago to seek a personal meeting with this promoter. But when he manages to get an interview, he discovers that the promoter has never heard of his record. It was never sent. Or at any rate never listened to.
So poor Llewyn offers to perform something to the promoter there and then. They go out into the cold, dark, deserted performance area. Llewyn sits down with his guitar, and the promoter sits opposite him, his face an unreadable mask. Llewyn performs one of his lyrical folk songs (nicely). There’s a silence, and then the promoter says in a solemn, judicious tone, ‘I don’t see a lot of money here.’