Last night we sat ourselves in the stellar TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre to see Inside Llewyn Davis (imdb | rotten tomatoes), the latest from the Coen Brothers. In addition to always wanting to see anything they do, I was interested to see the (loose) telling of the story of Dave Van Ronk. I only knew of Van Ronk from my dad’s stories, about how he was such a big part of the burgeoning early-60s NYC folk music movement but never became widely known. Stories of insider-respected but mostly-unknown people fascinate me, and they seem right in the Coen’s wheelhouse too.
I didn’t love the whole movie at first: there were parts I absolutely adored (Adam Driver during a studio session, for example, or the astonishing Oscar Isaac’s final verse of “The Death Of Queen Jane”), but other parts where it lost me (like the weird side trip to Chicago, or any time Carey Mulligan was on screen…we were being made to hate her character so much that it felt false and inorganic). Still, the parts that missed are fading quickly while the most moving moments — mostly centred around Isaac singing — won’t leave my mind. I even had “Please Mr. Kennedy” — the lone song played for laughs, no less — stuck in my head this morning for hours. I felt compelled to download the soundtrack immediately, and am listening to it as I write this. You should really buy it. I could never wish for the Coen brothers to stop making films, but if they decided to do nothing but musical collaborations with T Bone Burnett, I could live with that.
Cover photo by dhelling01, used under Creative Commons license