Before Dylan

The past week was premiered the Coen brothers’ new picture. Inside Llewyn Davis, a intimate tale about the folk music scene. During these last months, I’ve followed the track of this movie and I watched its first steps. Seems that Joel & Ethan Coen have returned to the same clean style that they used in O Brother, Where Art Thou? It’s caused me a good impression. And they said the same at Cannes: the picture won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the last edition. Since the festival, the movie has build up great expectations between the audience. Here at Europe, we’ve to wait a little more; the film is going to be at our theatres in January. Looking forward!

Greenwich Village, 1961. It’s a cold winter in New York. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a young folk singer, is struggling to be a famous musician, but to get it he should have to overcome surmountable obstacles. Living at the mercy of both friends and strangers, scaring up what work he can find, Lewyn’s misadventures takes him from the baskethouses of the Village to an empty Chicago club, on an odyssey to have an audition for the music mogul Bad Grossman, and back again.

Brimming with music performed by the same Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan (as Llewyn’s married Village friends), as well as Marcus Mumford and Punch Brother, Inside Llewyn Davis is infused with the transportive sound of another time and place. The Coen brothers, who are known for the collaboration with other music producer, back again with a new musical picture.

Inside Llewyn Davis shown the moment before Dylan and Ochs arrived in New York, when no one could have imagined the Village becoming the center of a folk music boom that would produce international superstars and change the course of popular music. The Village folk scene of the late 1950s: the dark ages and a time of true believers. Most of them were kids who had grown up on the streets of New York or the prefab suburbs of Long Island and New Jersey, trying to escape the dullness and conformity. This moment of transition was captured by one of the central figures on that scene: Dave Van Ronk. This musician recalls this as a key period in which an intimate band of young musicians shaped a new approach to folksinging, studying old records to capture the grit and rawness of Delta blues and Appalachian ballads, then finding ways to make that music express their own feelings and desires.  

Llewyn is not Van Ronk, but he sings some of Van Ronk’s songs and shares his background as a working class kid who split his life between music and occasional jobs as a merchant seaman. Llewyn also shares Van Ronk’s love and respect for authentic folk music, songs and styles created by working class people and passed on from one artist to another, polished by the ebb and flow of oral tradition. So, Llewyn Davis is a parable of Van Ronk then.

Llewyn Davis. A vagabond. A globetrotter. A believer. Carrying his guitar and wrapping up from the winter. A cat on his shoulder. Sleeping in the train cars. Without money on the pockets. Playing on the whole hovels of New York. Roaming through the street without direction, without anybody who believes on him. He knows that the things are hard out there, but he stands.

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