If there’s one thing to admire about Joel and Ethan Coen as auteurs (besides… well, just about everything), it’s their ability to bounce around from genre to genre, while always managing to churn out films that are identifiably and uniquely their own.
The Oscar-winning siblings plan to venture into pure horror territory in the future, but their next project – which now has a title, Inside Llewyn Davis – will concern a strikingly different subject matter: the New York folk music scene during the 1960s.
Variety has the lowdown on the film, which reunites the Coens with their No Country for Old Men and True Grit producer Scott Rudin. StudioCanal is co-financing and handling international sales, but the project has not yet secured a distributor. Expect that to change soon.
Inside Llewyn Davis chronicles its namesake’s attempts to make a living as a folk musician “during the genre’s 1960s heyday in New York City.” The main character is said to be partially modeled off real-life musician Dave van Ronk, whose experiences were recorded in the posthumous memoir “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” (in reference to the artist’s nickname).
Quick history lesson: van Ronk worked in a variety of different musical genres (ballards, blues, gospel, jazz, swing), but his main inspiration is said to have been famed blues and gospel guitarist Gary Davis, a.k.a. Reverend/Blind Gary Davis. He was a prominent member of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse folk culture back in the day, and worked alongside the likes of Bob Dylan, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Joni Mitchell, among others.
In summation – he’s definitely the sort of colorful real-life inspiration who would be an animated character in the Coens’ hands.
Among the early tidbits of information revealed about Inside Llweyn Davis (tip of the hat to /Film for these) are that it will feature a good amount of live-performance music and also, according to the Coens, resemble Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding, in terms of its naturalistic atmosphere and dialogue. That description alone also definitely prompts comparisons to the collective work of the late Robert Altman (MASH, Nashville, Gosford Park, etc.).
This sounds like one of the more interesting Coen Brothers projects (isn’t that saying something) simply because the pair are known for being extremely meticulous and planning out everything in their films well in advance – to the point that they always storyboard their scripts before pitching them to studio heads. So a film that feels more on-the-fly and sporadic could be an interesting change of pace. It should also be the most music-oriented Coen production since O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which is good news for those who loved how the filmmaking siblings incorporated old-fashioned tunes into that period comedy.
We’ll keep you posted on the status of Inside Llweyn Davis.