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Seriously funny

The Coen brothers’ films capture the hilarious and hopeless aspects of American life

By Francine Prose   January 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis: the protagonist “could be the hero of a Dostoevsky novella”

There’s something about the way Americans joke around that I value when I’m at home and miss anywhere else. Like any humour, it’s difficult to analyse or describe. I can list a few elements: irony, pathos, mayhem, violence, slapstick, a combination of wild outrage and a shrug at the way the world is.

Since the earliest days of American film, its most memorable scenes—Charlie Chaplin eating his shoe in The Gold Rush, Harold…

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