Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Why can’t you see Inside Llewyn Davis?

As a result of stupid Oscar-season nonsense, you are not allowed to see the Coens’ latest for months.

Tue, May 28, 2013, 22:49


Because you don’t have an endoscope. If you had an endoscope then you’d be able to see inside Llewyn Davis. Get it? Oh, please yourself.

You know what I am really getting at. After receiving ecstatic reviews at Cannes last week, the latest film from the Coen Brothers is hot, hot, hot. Everybody wants to see Llewyn wandering about New York City with somebody else’s cat. Well, you can’t. As I predicted way back in January, the film is not going to be released until Oscar season. (You are aware you get all this great stuff from me for free, right?)

Now, you might reasonably wonder why Blue is the Warmest Colour, winner of the Palme d’Or, is not on the schedule yet. That’s a different matter. At the time of its triumph, no distribution deal had been confirmed. Within hours, it emerged that our good friends at Artificial Eye, solid arthouse professionals, had secured the film for many territories. My bet is they’ll screen it at the London Film Festival in October and then release the picture shortly after that. That’s not so unreasonable. Having just acquired a film that nobody knew was going to be a sensation, the Eye people need some time to get their various ducks in order.

In contrast, Inside Llewyn Davis had no such problems. CBS films were always set to distribute in the USA. StudioCanal, also producers of the flick, will be handling it in this part of the world. It’s not as if the Coens are an unknown property. They don’t have to scrub around scaring up audiences. We know who likes the boys. But the business is now tied down to rigid release patterns that allow not even the slightest flexibility. Superhero films come out in summer. Horror films come out in October. And films that look like they might win Oscars emerge in the US in December, before eventually reaching us in January. Last autumn, I had the pleasure of talking to John Goodman about Argo. It was several weeks since he had finished shooting Inside Llewyn Davis. So, the movie will end up emerging a year and a quarter (at least) after it was filmed. It’s an Oscar film. It comes out in Oscar season. Are you not listening?

Here’s the punchline. I loved the film, but I don’t think it’s going to do particularly well at the Oscars. It will get a best picture nod. But it is far too light to win that award. Oscar Isaac is great in the lead role, but it’s not really an actors’ picture. I would guess the only person who has a serious chance of winning is T Bone Burnett for the music.

I say all this not to get Oscar gossip started already. I say it to emphasise how perverse the distributor’s decision seems. You have an audience eager to consume your product. Give it to them, for Pete’s sake.