The Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis shines spotlight on '60s Greenwich Village folk scene

Inside Llewyn Davis stars Oscar Isaac in the titular role of a folk musician with a cat
Inside Llewyn Davis stars Oscar Isaac in the titular role of a folk musician with a cat

Locally bred Oscar-winning auteurs Joel and Ethan Coen have never shied away from drawing inspiration from their Minnesota upbringing to use in their films. Both Fargo and A Serious Man candidly reflect all-too-familiar aspects of life around these parts as well as lasting impressions that the creative filmmakers gleaned from their childhood spent in St. Louis Park.

The duo have also used music to great effect in their films, with the success of O Brother, Where Art Thou? spawning a resurgence of interest in classic American folk music, as well as a blockbuster soundtrack that resulted in a live concert and corresponding DVD that perhaps outshines the lasting impact of the film itself.

Now the Coens are back with a new forthcoming film, Inside Llewyn Davis, that blends their love of music with the legendary folk scene of Greenwich Village in the '60s that helped spawn and nurture the early career of one of Minnesota's favorite sons, Bob Dylan.

See Also:
Bob Dylan's most memorable Minnesota performances (1998-2008)
Mumford and Sons on Austin City Limits, a play-by-play of sorts

While the film is loosely based on the life story of frequent Dylan collaborator and friend Dave Van Ronk, the burgeoning folk music scene of the early '60s that is highlighted in the film is the same one that helped turn a young Dylan into a star.

In addition to shining a spotlight on the creative New York folk scene of the '60s, the film features Justin Timberlake, who has a minor role and contributes music as well. Actress Carey Mulligan also stars, and her husband, Marcus Mumford, not only collaborated with Timberlake on some original music for the film, but Mumford also assisted the legendary T Bone Burnett (the man responsible for O Brother, Where Art Thou's successful soundtrack) with producing the music and soundtrack for the movie.

The Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis shines spotlight on '60s Greenwich Village folk scene

Speaking recently with Capital FM, Timberlake had this to say about his involvement with Inside Llewyn Davis:

"There's a Coen brothers film coming out soon that I was lucky enough to work with Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan. And coincidentally I did work with Marcus Mumford on the soundtrack, so I became very good friends with them. Marcus and myself we all kind of worked on the music together and I don't know any other world where we would have the opportunity to collaborate like that but it was so much fun. So not only will that be a great movie, but the music to it will be fantastic."

While a Dylan-like character isn't readily visible in the trailer for the film, the Greenwich Village folk scene and recognizable venues like the Gaslight Cafe that cultivated Dylan's early career serve as the backdrop for the film. The story also illustrates just how difficult it was during that time to get taken seriously as a folk singer in the music world.

Of course, Dylan's runaway success would change all of that, but during the early days folk music was definitely considered outsider music that the industry barely noticed, until Bob's indelible songs forced them to listen up as he led music into a bold new direction. And hopefully, this film will shine some light on that early transformation while also bringing some well-deserved attention to Van Ronk's contribution to the scene.

Inside Llewyn Davis is due out this December. Take a look below at the trailer for the film, which also prominently features Dylan's aching acoustic ballad "Farewell."

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