Coen Bros: Inside Llewyn Davis part 5
This movie is still in theaters. If you keep reading this analysis, things will be spoiled for you. Just sayin’.
The morning after Troy performs to such acclaim, Llewyn wakes up on the floor of Jim and Jean’s apartment. Normally, he would have slept on Jim and Jean’s couch, but his place has been given to Troy. Now, Llewyn is woken by the sound of Troy eating breakfast cereal, sitting straight back on a rocking chair, the bowl in his hands. “Well that was very good,” he remarks after finishing his simple meal: the tiniest pleasures are a cause for reflection in Troy’s world.
“What’s next?” says Llewyn. “Do you plug yourself in somewhere?” Llewyn sees the guileless Troy as a machine, a robot, a tool of the military-industrial complex. Troy (a Trojan horse?) sets Llewyn straight on that tip: he’s in the army for the discipline, but he’s getting out in a few months and is going to become a folk singer. He mentions one Bud Grossman, a club-owner and big wheel who has expressed interest in representing Troy. Every Coen Bros movie has its head guy, the guy from whom all power flows, and Bud Grossman is this movie’s. Bud Grossman (whose name means, literally, “big man”), we gather, has “cracked the code” of making a living off of Folk music. He has his club, The Gate of Horn (which was a real club in Chicago), which, the reader will not be shocked to learn, has roots in Greek mythology. There are two gates, one of horn and one of ivory, through which dreams pass. The gate of horn produces “true” dreams, and the gate of ivory produces “deceptive” dreams. A nightclub called The Gate of Horn, then, would be a place where one would go to hear the truth, as expressed through dreams, which is what songs (and movies) really are. So Bud Grossman, we gather, will be a final arbiter of truth and deception. He likes Troy, and therefore we gather that Troy represents truth, at least for Bud Grossman.
But for now, the point of the scene is that Troy has taken his youth and invested it in a craving for discipline, which is one thing Llewyn has decidedly not done. A self-styled artist, Llewyn has to “feel” it or else he can’t abide it. And if his path hurts or offends, that’s the offended party’s problem. The one creature he feels any responsibility toward is the Gorfein’s cat, who, when Llewyn opens the window to have a cigarette, dashes out of and vanishes into the great city. Llewyn is more upset about the cat getting lost than he is about Jean’s unborn child. Perhaps because the cat sort of is Jean’s unborn child, or perhaps another of Llewyn’s unborn children, all those potential lives out there, just as Troy is a potential version of Llewyn.
Llewyn takes Jean out to Washington Square Park to talk about her pregnancy. The headline of the scene is “Jean Does Not Like Llewyn.” “You should not be in contact with any living thing,” she hisses. She so regrets having sex with him that she would rather abort her pregnancy than risk the chance that the baby might be Llewyn’s. We’re reminded that Llewyn has been down this road before, with a “Diane,” and “knows a doctor.”
After Jean’s anger is somewhat spent, she says “I miss Mike.” Mike, the reader will recall, was Llewyn’s old singing partner. The tone in Jean’s voice suggests that perhaps she was in love with Mike, and perhaps had sex with Llewyn because he reminded her of him. Perhaps they both missed Mike, and spent a night together to comfort each other. For that matter, the death of Mike may be the inciting incident of Llewyn’s downfall, although he seems to have had plenty of personality issues before that event. In any case, Mike, dead as he is, has made the genuine final farewell, that one gesture that clearly separates the authentically pained from the posers.