Amid the rain and the burglaries and red carpet photo ops, the Coen brothers, perennials on the Croisette, are seeing their latest film Inside Llewyn Davis get the kind of reaction on the Riveria that filmmakers dream of. It tells the story of the aspirations and failures of 1960s folk singer Llewyn Davis, who is played by Oscar Isaac and never really amounts to Bob Dylan-level success. Inspired by Dave Van Ronk's memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street, the film also stars Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan.
At the film's Sunday night premiere there was "five minutes of strong, if not thunderous clapping, along with – for Cannes standard-issue — standing ovation," according to The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Roxborough. At Cannes, these immediate audience reactions tend to be measured, analyzed, and publicized. Five minutes of strong clapping with standing ovation plus, as he added, shouts of "Bravo!" rank high and, although the festival runs through this weekend, Inside Llewyn Davis is looking like one of this year's true successes along with Asghar Farhadi's The Past.
The critics—who saw the film in a screening Saturday—are also shouting, in their own way. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gushed about the film's "most exuberant sequence"—a performance of novelty tune "Please Please Mr. Kennedy (Don't Shoot Me Into Outer Space)"—saying it received a "spontaneous round of applause" from the international press corps. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times raved in today's paper, "What a relief! After days and nights of rain puddling on the red carpet and grim tidings darkening the screens, the Coens delivered both much-needed levity and an expressive, piercing story about artistic struggle." The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy called the movie a "a gorgeously made character study leavened with surrealistic dimensions both comic and dark." At The Wrap, Sasha Stone said the film is "likely to be one of the best films of the year, and certainly among their own best work." Stone also Instagrammed a photo of a record featuring the movie's music. Just like the Coens and T-Bone Burnett got us listening to old-fashioned bluegrass for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, expect them to do the same for 60s folk. So how does the film rank among the Coens other, plentiful, films? Writing for France 24, Jon Frosch says it's "Fargo-level good."