Being-BessmanJoel Coen did an interview last week in The New York Times about his and brother Ethan’s much-anticipated—but aren’t all CoBros films “much anticipated”?–film Inside Llewyn Davis.

still-of-oscar-isaacBased very loosely on Dave Van Ronk’s posthumous 2005 memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street (written with Elijah Wald), Inside Llewyn Davis takes a darkly funny, typically ambiguous CoBros look at the pre-Dylan 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, albeit one “less innocent,” as Wald told the Times, than the one populated by Van Ronk.

“The character is not at all Dave, but the music is,” said Wald, who “thoroughly enjoyed the movie.” So did the likes of Loudon Wainwright III, Suzzy Roche and Rosanne Cash at a December screening in New York.

“Went to screening of new Joel Coen film tonight,” Cash tweeted. “It was so great I wish I could see it again for the first time.”

still-of-justin-timberlake-with-carey-mulligan T Bone Burnett is on board again producing the music for the movie, which has all the right folk flavors of that epochal scene. It’s being shown this week at a pre-Grammy screening in L.A. for “music industry insiders” and probably some distributors, as atypically for the Coens, it was made with overseas funding (French company Studio Canal) and is without U.S. distribution.

Ethan, meanwhile, notes that the woman playing the autoharp in the “authentic” folk act in the equally authentic folk club—the one that lead character Llewyn heckles–is none other than Nancy Blake, singing the Carter Family’s “The Storm Is On The Ocean.”

inside-llewyn-davisPlayed by Oscar Isaac, Llewyin also sings the folk standard “Dink’s Song” (“If I Had Wings”), with Marcus Mumford and backed by the Punch Brothers. Punch Brother Chris Thiele sings lead on “The Old Triangle,” a song performed by a Clancy Brothers-type Irish quartet—with cast member Justin Timberlake singing the bass part.

Timberlake, along with Isaac and Adam Driver, also shine in a wonderfully witty ditty “Please Mr. Kennedy,” which concerns the then timely desire to be shot up into space.

“It’s a heavily rewritten version of a Goldcoast Singers song,” says Ethan, who like his brother, is a deeply knowledgeable music fan. He would have to be to know the Goldcoast Singers, the satiric early ‘60s folk duo best remembered for “Plastic Jesus” (about the dashboard ornament), whose original “Please Mr. Kennedy” concerned the Draft.

Many at the screening attended by Cash were left dumbstruck afterwards—not an uncommon reaction among Coen Brothers film fans.

“How good you are doesn’t always matter,” Joel told the Times. “That’s what the movie is about.”

Jim Bessman






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