An interview with the Coen Brothers: “We sold out long ago…”

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Looking back on their films is not something the Coens appear to enjoy doing much. For instance, they wriggle awkwardly out of trying to locate Inside Llewyn Davis in their broader body of work. “Each thing is a thing in its own right,” protests Ethan. John Goodman, however, seems to have no such qualms. “Is there a thread to their movies?” he considers. “O Brother…No Country For Old Men and True Grit were quest films. I think there is a quest here, a journey. But I don’t see a lot of money, I don’t see a big pay off yet for Llewyn unless he learns to unbend a little. But then, why should he? He’s a tremendously serious artist. Maybe he’s afraid of success. Last time I saw the film, it struck me a lot harder that it did the first time, and that was the question of success. What does he have to give up to put a roof over his head, or provide himself with food and shelter?”

Joel and Ethan offer some closing thoughts, at least, on what’s going on inside Llewyn Davis; in particular, his conflict between craving success and preserving his authenticity.


“How do you deal with that?” asks Ethan. “Do you juggle that or reconcile that? Or are you a little hypocritical, like Llewyn is, espousing the one thing while trying to do the other. It’s all complicated.”

“And how does that make you feel about yourself?” adds Joel.

“It’s success in one respect, failure on another,” concludes Ethan. “How much success do you want? How much failure can you take? It’s hard to navigate. Certainly for him. It’s easier for us…”

“… Because,” finishes Joel, “we sold out long ago.”

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