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The work of Joel and Ethan Coen owes much to many who went before them, but they have few equals. There is no body of work quite like theirs in the post-1980 film landscape. Even in the decades prior, only a handful of directors — Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges prominent among them — can rival the wellspring combination of humor, humanism, and pure verve that the Coens seem able to tap into almost at will. When all is said and done, the Coens will likely stand as two of the very best filmmakers, period. And we get to be around as they release new films every couple years. What a joy that is.

The Coens’ new film, Inside Llewyn Davis, premiered at Cannes this past weekend. Immediately it became the toast of the festival (so far), with effusive reviews praising its tone, humor, and performances. We’ve rounded up a few below, just to give you a hint of what’s being said, some of which helps put footage from the trailer into more context.

Jordan Hoffman at Film.com says,

Despite some ambiguity, this is not “A Serious Man.” This is far and away the most straightforward thing the Coens have ever done. There’s very little of their trickster-ish ways, either in the story or the dialogue. (There are quotables, don’t get me wrong, but by Coens standards very few.) It’s a character piece, and one of the best, and most understated, movies I’ve ever seen about the grieving process.

Pajiba, meanwhile, offers,

Ultimately, this feels like a smaller Coen brothers film, a small fable revisiting their old wheelhouse of outsiders in an unforgiving world — but it seems to have a more personal touch, with some interesting allusions to Jewishness, death, and creative partnership. The stylistic exercises of music and period recreation are successfully done, but more than this, Inside Llewyn Davis stands out in the brothers’ work as a deeply human and meditative work.

The Film Stage calls the film “a delightful treat for fans of the folk music scene in its infancy while simultaneously being one of the funniest deadpan comedies in years,” while Variety says it is “a boldly original, highly emotional journey through Greenwich Village nightclubs, a bleak New York winter, and one man’s fraught efforts to reconcile his life and his art.”

Press Play praised “Oscar Isaac’s heartbreaking performance, which gives even the smallest moment palpable weight.” The Playlist echoes that sentiment, noting that  ”he absolutely wears the Coens’ precise dialogue and tone like a glove, and delivers a melancholy, worn performance that’s equally funny as well (sometimes both at the same time).”

Oh, and with the emphasis on music in the story, you might wonder if some of those songs will find life outside the film, as happened with the music from O Brother, Where Art Thou?. In fact, there will be some live performances of the music, as T. Bone Burnett, who oversaw the music for both films, explained to HitFix:

I don’t think we’re going to do a tour, but we’re going to do a series of shows. I guess we should announce it. Are we ready? I don’t know when we’re supposed to talk about this, but we’re going to do a series of shows. There won’t be a tour. I won’t say that.

Inside Llewyn Davis has a limited opening scheduled for the US on December 6, and will expand throughout December and (more likely) January 2013.

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