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Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village

28 Jan 13 - 12:13 PM (#3472517)
Subject: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: Desert Dancer

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

28 Jan 13 - 05:08 PM (#3472635)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: GUEST,gillymor

Sounds cool. Thanks for the heads up.

28 Jan 13 - 08:12 PM (#3472707)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: GUEST,Big Al Whittle

Sounds bloody weird. i'm a huge fan of Van Ronk, The Blues Project and The Washington Square compilations - but I can't imagine Timberlake or the Mumfords even breathing the same air as those guys.

There was alot of acoustic technique in those guys approach to folk music that you can't just 'act'.

29 Jan 13 - 06:02 AM (#3472841)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: GUEST,Gerry

Joni Mitchell? Washington Square, early 1960s? She came along a few years later, didn't she?

30 Jan 13 - 08:58 AM (#3473468)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: Desert Dancer

It's fiction, folks. ;-)

~ Becky back East

30 Jan 13 - 09:46 AM (#3473483)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: GUEST,gillymor

Perzactly, Coen bros. ain't Ken Burns.

30 Jan 13 - 10:56 AM (#3473500)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village

Ramblingboy Tom paxton

30 Jan 13 - 03:37 PM (#3473600)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village

Some info and the trailer on the Folk Roots blog.

Folk Roots blog

14 Feb 13 - 11:35 PM (#3479851)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: katlaughing

there ia a trailer < href=>HERE.

15 Feb 13 - 02:45 PM (#3480103)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: Desert Dancer


musta been katinahurry. ;-)

~ Becky in Long Beach

09 May 13 - 02:07 PM (#3513464)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: Desert Dancer

Here's a better link to the post by Mike Regenstreif at Folk Rotts/Folk Branches: Coen Brothers folk music film.

And another short item from Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress: The First Trailer For The Coen Brothers' 'Inside Llewyn Davis'.

~ Becky in Long Beach

19 May 13 - 10:50 PM (#3516949)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: Desert Dancer

Singing a Happier Tune in Cannes
Manohla Dargis
NY Times

CANNES, France — The applause for Joel and Ethan Coen's wonderful new film, a comedy in a melancholic key called "Inside Llewyn Davis," started someplace around the midway mark. Prompted by the hilariously inane "Please Please Mr. Kennedy," sung by Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver — who play three bearded 1961 folkies warbling and strumming through a space-race ditty — the Cannes audience started to laugh and clap. By the time the film ended, the clapping, laughing and whooping critics at the 66th Cannes Film Festival were over the moon.

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 tune's fatalism. It's a traditional song that was covered by, among others, the folk revivalist Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) and appears on his album "Inside Dave Van Ronk." The as-told-to book by Van Ronk and Elijah Wald, "The Mayor of Macdougal Street: A Memoir," partly inspired the Coens, who, as they did in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," also playfully, sometimes pointedly have drawn on Homer's "Odyssey." Soon after Llewyn finishes the song, he steps into an alley and receives a bad beating, the first in many punishments on what proves a long, difficult road.

Set mostly in downtown New York with an occasional trip to the Upper West Side and a lengthy detour to Chicago, the film tracks Llewyn as he tries to be true to himself and his art while scrambling to build a career. The years and fate have not been kind, but then neither has he. He takes more than he gives, borrowing money along with infringing on other people's beds and their partners. He's slept with the wife (Carey Mulligan) of his best friend (Mr. Timberlake), an indiscretion that hasn't stopped Llewyn from either flopping at their apartment or singing with them when the need or maybe just his need arises. His journey — which involves a number of cool cats, including a riff on a jazz man by John Goodman — is humbling, tragic, absurd, revelatory.

"Inside Llewyn Davis," which is in the main competition, will open in the United States in December, doubtless after making other stops on the festival circuit. It's the kind of great work that cuts right through the noise, frivolity and cross-branding that at any given moment threaten to overshadow Cannes, and that was exemplified by a news release e-mailed on Sunday: "Taking futuristic dystopian fashion and fun to whole new levels, Lionsgate's 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Capitol Party at Baoli Beach on Saturday evening sponsored by CoverGirl was this year's hottest event at the Cannes Film Festival."

~ Becky in Tucson

12 Sep 13 - 02:12 PM (#3558460)
Subject: RE: Coen bros movie: Dave van Ronk & Village
From: Desert Dancer

'We Are the Establishment Now' The Coen Brothers Look Wryly at Their Films -- this lengthy interview in the NY Times opens with a discussion of Inside Llewyn Davis.