Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" Brings Era of American Folk Music to Life
February 09, 2014
In Mrs. Unruh's music class at my elementary school, we sang American folk songs.
We sang them in the morning. We sang them in the multi-purpose room. We sang them to anyone who would listen. We belted them out, not knowing that a couple decades earlier they had actually been more than songs about wind and hammers. They had spoken to a generation.
Recently, I saw the Oscar-slighted Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers' latest film about a down-on-his-luck folk singer who can't catch a break. The film recreates early 1960s Greenwich Village right down to the blonde modern furniture and the drab turtleneck sweaters. It also recreates the music with all the accoustic guitars, harpsicords, and blended harmonies.
Llewyn, played by Oscar Issac, sings those folk tunes with the voice of an angel. But once the music stops, he's not so heaven sent. In fact, Llewyn is kind of a whiny loser.
The music in the film is a wonderful reminder of just how beautiful and influential American folk music was on succeeding generations of musicians. Over the years, rock and country stars have covered their share of folk songs, most notably Bruce Springsteen with his We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions album. But those efforts have always been influenced by the artists' star power and personal style. Inside Llewyn Davis offers a glimpse into what it sounded like back in the day. When Llewyn sings, you can understand why folk music spoke to so many people, like Mrs. Unruh.
Can a quirky Coen Brothers plotline make Llewyn's future brighter and his personality more likeable? Go see for yourself.