Singing a Happier Tune in Cannes

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. Mr. Isaac, wearing a deadpan expression that wavers between the soulful and soul-sick, plays Llewyn, a New York folk musician groping to find his existential way in the turbulent wake of a tragedy. With his guitar and bitterness, lofty principles and light wallet, Llewyn is barely scraping by, taking low-paying gigs and crashing on couches. His most recent album, which shares the film’s title, has gone nowhere and he’s spiraling after it rapidly.

The movie opens with him performing “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” in a Greenwich Village nightclub in which the air is thick with smoke and sincerity, his warmly alive tenor offering a touching contrast to the

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