The sounds of the early 1960s folk music revival float on the air like a strange, intoxicating perfume in the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a boldly original, highly emotional journey through Greenwich Village nightclubs, a bleak New York winter, and one man’s fraught efforts to reconcile his life and his art. A product of the same deeply personal end of the Coens’ filmmaking spectrum previously responsible for the likes of “Barton Fink” and “A Serious Man,” this darkly comic musical drama with an elliptical narrative and often brusque protagonist won’t corral the same mass audience as “No Country for Old Men” and “True Grit.” But strong reviews — for the pic itself and its stupendous soundtrack — should make this December release an awards-season success for distrib CBS Films.
As they did with the 1940s Hollywood setting of “Barton Fink,” the Coens have again taken a real time and place and freely made it their own, drawing on actual persons and events for inspiration, but binding themselves only to their own bountiful imaginations. The result is a movie that neatly avoids the problems endemic to most period movies — and biopics in particular — in favor of a playful, evocatively subjective reality. Perhaps most surprising to some viewers will be the pic’s surfeit of something the Coens have sometimes been accused of lacking: deep, heartfelt sincerity.
Where Clifford Odets provided the inspiration for “Fink’s” eponymous playwright, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) has been similarly modeled on the late Dave Van Ronk, a mainstay of the ’60s New York folk revival whose vaunted reputation among musicians never translated into the commercial success enjoyed by many of his contemporaries. Like Van Ronk, the pic’s Davis is a guitar-strumming balladeer whose repertoire consists mostly of vintage American roots music of the sort catalogued by musicologists John and Alan Lomax as they traversed the southern U.S. One such tune, the haunting “Dink’s Song” (aka “Fare Thee Well”) becomes the pic’s melancholy refrain in a version purportedly cut by Davis and his former partner, Mike (British musician Marcus Mumford), before the latter’s suicide rendered Llewyn a solo act…
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Below is an exclusive video of Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford performing “Dink’s Song” live at Caffe Vivaldi in New York City on January 10, 2012 (click here for a rebloggable version).
Why Mumford & Sons' Winston Marshall is going to change his tattoo and stop going by the nickname "Country Winston"
- GQ: Why the word "tour" [as a tattoo]?
- Winston Marshall: Um, because I love tour.
- GQ: Not "touring"? Not even "tour!" with an exhortatory or celebratory exclamation mark? Could you only afford the four letters?
- WM: Yeah, at the time... [He grins.] I'll add the 'ing' now. I know it's not very imaginative.
- GQ: While we're at it, why the nickname "Country"?
- WM: I'm not up for it any more; I'm going to change it. It was from an old band where we had pseudonyms. I kept it because I thought it was fun. There was Hillbilly Harry, Duvet Crocket, Kid Fiddler... The problem is, at the time, for me, country music meant bluegrass. Now I've spent time in America I've realised I don't actually like country music.