Louie: Two Violins in a Stairwell



One of the things about Louie that has always set it apart for me in regards to other half hour comedy/dramas (besides the already obvious genre bending) is the way Louis CK is not at all afraid to let awkward or unfortunate moments just sit and air out for what sometimes seems like minutes at a time. Forcing the audience to boil in the discomfort is the difference between us simply understanding something he is going through is awkward and truly feeling that same awful twinge in our guts that the fictional character on our screen has. Most of the time, he purposefully spurns any and all musical accompaniment to these scenes to fully wring out any remaining distractions there may be. Nothing but silence and character interactions hold our attention. Louis has become so deft and consistent with this over multiple seasons I have now come to expect at least one of these scenes in each episode. They are, after all, what the tone of the show is continually based around. Louie’s inability to read the majority of social situations and not be a complete idiot during many of them is what he does best.

However, it has gotten to the point where when I expect to be made uncomfortable he flips the script and gives us something sweet instead. I’m unsure whether this is intentional on his part or simply a matter of my mind thinking it knows what’s about to happen when in reality it has no idea what the next scene will bring. That feeling is one of the reasons that the pace and attitude of Louie has begun to feel even more well done over the last season, give or take a few episodes. Finally getting used to the rhythm and story beats of a show, only to have it keep things fresh and turn it around on you, is one of the things TV excels at as a medium. This is exactly what happened last night during the second of the two episodes that aired (Elevator Parts 2/3). Throughout both episodes, there were moments that made my skin crawl. Among the many, Louie not understanding that his Hungarian neighbor’s niece did in fact want to see him again, having to explain yet another indiscretion from Jane to his ex-wife, and having to turn Pam down cold after she had already made an advance. Nothing quite as bad as punching a model in the face after sleeping with her, but still.

So, when Louie and Jane began to climb the stairs to his apartment on their way home from school and Amia walks out of her aunt’s apartment in the process of taking out the trash I was prepared for nothing but more cringing. Here Louie is, in the middle of his “not really a girlfriend” girl friend and his daughter, and you can see on his face he has no idea what to say or how to handle the situation without being his classic self and screwing something up. He goes with the easiest method of straight up introducing the two parties, until Jane shocks him by knowing how to say hello in Hungarian. Again, his face falls somewhere between “what is happening” and “my daughter is pretty awesome huh”. From there, the scene goes somewhere so sweet and beautiful that I re-watched it a few times today individually only to see it get better every time. When Amia goes and retrieves her violin from the apartment and starts to play it’s a nice (yet possibly strange) touch, but when Jane makes it a duet it turns it into something so unexpected and lovely to watch.

If you haven’t already, watch this scene over again (embedded above) and look only at Louie’s face while they play (sort of tough I know). This is where his ability to react to things in such a pure and realistic way comes in handy. Here they are, these two women who mean so much to him at this moment in time, and he could not even have considered possessing the ability to introduce them to each other in this way. Eszter Balint and Ursula Parker also bring a necessary human quality to their playing in addition to their pure talent. Even though Balint and Parker are both incredibly accomplished violinists, here they seems talented but not overly so in a way that would shatter the illusion of their characters. They say music is the universal language, but it is rare on television when we get a scene where that adage is as clearly laid out as here. Two skilled musicians introducing themselves through the enjoyment of their craft is great to watch no matter the stage, and the landing of an NYC walk up seems as good a place as any to make some musical magic happen. Well done once again by Louie/Louis for writing and staging something of this caliber, and by Parker and Balint for executing it so well.

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