Mudcat Café message #3472517 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #149279   Message #3472517
Posted By: Desert Dancer
28-Jan-13 - 12:13 PM
Thread Name: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
Subject: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
In today's NY Times:

Macdougal Street Homesick Blues
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — What if a folk singer got beat up outside a Greenwich Village nightclub in 1961?

Six, seven, or, maybe, eight years ago, as Joel Coen remembers it, that seemingly idle question about an unlucky singer in a hypothetical encounter at what used to be a real club called Gerde's Folk City started bothering Mr. Coen, who writes and directs off-center movies with his brother, Ethan.

Next week some music industry insiders and perhaps a few potential buyers will finally see, and hear, the resulting film at a private, pre-Grammys screening in Los Angeles.

It is called "Inside Llewyn Davis." And it promises to be quintessential Coen brothers fare — but different.

For starters, Joel Coen explained, speaking recently over a bowl of oatmeal at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel here, "Inside Llewyn Davis" has a certain kinship with "Les Misérables."

In it almost all the principal actors — Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake — sing. "There are lots of duets and trios," Mr. Coen said.

While not quite a musical, he added, "Inside Llewyn Davis" is built around full-length performances of folk songs that were heard in the grubby cafes of the Village in a year when Bob Dylan, who kind of, sort of shows up in the movie, had just appeared on the scene.

As for plot, Mr. Coen said, there isn't quite as much as is usual for the brothers, who in the past have written and directed elaborate crime stories like "Fargo" and "No Country for Old Men." This time they present the travails, over maybe two weeks, of a struggling folk singer, Llewyn Davis, who is portrayed by Mr. Isaac.

For the record Llewyn Davis doesn't really resemble, or sound like, Dave Van Ronk, whose posthumous 2005 memoir, "The Mayor of Macdougal Street," written with Elijah Wald, served as source material for the film.

"The character is not at all Dave, but the music is," said Mr. Wald, who spoke by telephone last week after having been given an early look at the film with Van Ronk's widow, Andrea Vuocolo Van Ronk.
Mr. Wald said he "thoroughly enjoyed" the movie.

But he cautioned that the world of "Inside Llewyn Davis," having been devised by the Coens, is "less innocent" than one inhabited by Van Ronk, Mr. Dylan, Paul Clayton, the Rev. Reverend Gary Davis, Joni Mitchell, Tom Paxton and the myriad other singers who are invoked in the film. Its story bounces through actual places like Gerde's, the Gaslight Café and the Gate of Horn in Chicago without explicitly portraying real artists or folk music powers like the impresario Albert Grossman.
Working with the musician Marcus Mumford, Mr. Coen said, T Bone Burnett produced the music for "Inside Llewyn Davis." Mr. Mumford, he added, sings in the movie.
For "Inside Llewyn Davis" Mr. Burnett has helped to re-create the brief flowering of a folk scene that in the early '60s made Washington Square and its environs an unlikely crossroads for musical influences from Appalachia, the Deep South, the Far West, New England — almost anywhere but New York's neighborhoods, from which some of its heartiest practitioners, and Llewyn Davis, arrived.

It was that cultural disconnect, Mr. Coen said, that lured him and his brother — long fans of folk music — to look for the movie in all of it. Van Ronk, the raspy balladeer of "Cocaine Blues," which is heard briefly in the film, and "Both Sides Now," which is not heard, was born in Brooklyn. Similarly, the itinerant singer Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Mr. Coen said, was actually Elliot Adnopoz, from Brooklyn as well.

Over all the music, including the traditional ballad "Dink's Song," is drawn from the songbook of the early 1960s. But some slight anachronisms creep in, Mr. Coen said.

In life the poseurs and musical poets made things lively for a few short years, before electric instruments, changing tastes and an exploding counterculture left the folkies behind.

By the mid-1970s, Mr. Wald noted, Van Ronk, who was a kind of godfather to the scene but never enjoyed the superstar status that fell to Mr. Dylan or Ms. Mitchell, was grumbling that he should have stayed in the merchant marine.

When we catch up with Llewyn Davis in 1961, Mr. Coen said, he appears to be suffering frustrations of his own. While Mr. Coen did not say how the Gerde's beating fits in his story, a Web link associated with invitations to the pre-Grammy's screening shows the singer-hero getting bounced onto a parked car and pounded in a dark alley.

"He's trying to get some traction in his career and in his life," Mr. Coen said.

"How good you are doesn't always matter," he added. "That's what the movie is about."

They are shopping for a U.S. distributor this year, probably will be at Cannes, so look for it on your local screens maybe by the end of the year.

~ Becky in Hackettstown, NJ, for a week