Inside Llewyn Davis is my favorite Coen Brothers movie about folk music. I like O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but it’s altogether a different beast. Inside Llewyn Davis still has enough ridiculous dialogue and John Goodman cameos to keep any longtime Coen fan entertained, but it’s just a little bit more subtle than I expected. It’s serious and real—a perfect slice of life story—with just a touch of dry, grown-up humor.
I wish that for just one timeYou could stand inside my shoesAnd just for that one momentI could be you
Positively Fourth Street, Bob Dylan
The film’s subject is Llewyn Davis, a folk singer struggling to find his place in the Greenwich Village folk music scene that would soon propel Bob Dylan to fame. Authenticity is a big concern in this film. Consequently, the roles of genuine self expression and popular appeal in folk music are often at odds with one another. The film portrays both characters who refuse to sacrifice authenticity for success—like Llewyn—and those who construct a generic kind of authenticity with more popular appeal—like many of his peers—in order to become more successful. I highly recommend the movie. Check out the clip below:
If you’re interested in a conversation about the folk music revival of the 50’s and early 60’s, and the music featured in the film, check out the following clip:
This clip comes from a documentary about the music that inspired the film. Another Day/Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis was produced by the Coen Brothers, and their music producer T Bone Burnett, who also worked on O Brother, Where Art Thou?. It’s a bit difficult to explain, because its value doesn’t rely on the Coen Brothers’ film. It’s a stand-alone tribute to the collective tradition of American folk music, and the way that it puts us all in touch with the best aspects of ourselves, and the things that we all have in common. Each film complements and enhances the value of the other, much like the words and the melody in folk music.
‘Member one night, a-drizzlin’ rain,Roun’ my heart I felt a pain.Fare thee well, O Honey, fare thee well.
Dink’s Song, traditional
There isn’t even the slightest distance between myself and the subject of folk music. I find it difficult to express what it is that makes the genre so appealing, because some intrinsic part of me responds to it. Maybe my discussion on the intersection of folk music and poetry in my last post gets at this idea from a more objective, less involved point of view. I suspect that even someone with no inkling of what I mean could appreciate this film and this documentary, however. Maybe watch the film, and then check out the documentary if it really gets into your soul.
What’s inspiring you lately? Let me know in the comments!