Magazine article Variety

Recalling Folk's Age of INNOCENCE

Magazine article Variety

Recalling Folk's Age of INNOCENCE

Article excerpt

T Bone Burnett and Coens reunite on 'Inside Llewyn Davis,' which leans on pre-Dylan traditional tunes

When it was revealed two years ago that the Coen brothers' next project would revolve around the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early '60s, the first thought that came to mind was "who's going to play Dylan?" But Judas is nowhere to be found in the filmmakers' prelapsarian world of troubadours, beat poets and their exploiters.

Instead, as Variety's Scott Foundas wrote in his Cannes festival review of "Inside Llewyn Davis," being released Dec. 6 by CBS Films, "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."

As T Bone Burnett, the film's exec music producer and co-producer with the Coens of the soundtrack, tells Variety. "This is about a time that is very much like the time we've been in, an interregnum when the old is dying but isn't dead, and the new's being born and isn't born yet. And this movie ends on that moment, really, when the new is born."

In other words, the bard behind "Blowin' With the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" hadn't arrived on the scene yet. "Llewyn Davis'" title character, played by Oscar Isaac in a breakthrough role, is a hapless but gifted musician who never achieves the fame he envisions for himself. While he was inspired by folkie/ bluesman Dave Van Ronk, he's mostly a product of the Coens' fanciful imagination, with a dash of Bob Dylan to give him a mercenary edge.

The film's title is a variation of the 1963 recording "Inside Dave Van Ronk," and refers to Davis' fictional first solo album, which appears destined to be relegated to the dustbin of musical arcana.

In "Chronicles," Dylan's memoir of his formative years, he describes Van Ronk as a singer who "could howl and whisper, turn blues into ballads and ballads into blues." So when Isaac and Burnett initially met, recalls the actor, "the first thing (Burnett) did was just put on the new Tom Waits record and leave me in the room there for about an hour." The exercise wasn't inconceivable, given that Van Ronk's guttural growl, as Isaac calls it, presaged Waits' rough-grit vocals and beatnik sensibilities.

Isaac, who won the role over a number of accomplished actors and musicians, has been singing and playing guitar since his early teens - a plus for a project that required the actors to sing live during filming. …

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