Joel and Ethan Coen have been writing and directing movies for almost 30 years and in 16 films have managed to tackle almost every genre, from the noir of their Independent Spirit award-winning debut, Blood Simple, to their twisted take on 30s' comedies in The Hudsucker Proxy. Their new movie, a shaggy dog story about a failing folk singer, set in the New York folk scene of the early 60s, Inside Llewyn Davis, just played the Telluride Film Festival and is already getting significant buzz. Joel and Ethan did a great Q&A after the screening: click below to check out the newest flick from the Brothers Coen and hear from the director(s)!
Inside Llewyn Davis is very loosely based on the life of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, a zelig-like figure on the folk scene in the early 60s and beyond, where he palled around with the likes of Bob Dylan, though never achieving significant commercial success for himself.
The film follows Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as his career goes from disaster to disaster, from a terrible relationship with Carey Mulligan's character (who, along with Justin Timberlake, comprise a terrible folk duo) to ever mounting humiliation, including an incident with a cat.
Music in the film is provided by the always great T. Bone Burnett, who previously worked with the Coen Bros. on their epic Preston Sturges homage O Brother Where Art Thou? . As always, the Coen's movies are personal, even if they have a polished perfection to them. Ethan discussed their folk music influences:
Like a lot of people, we listened to Bob Dylan when we were kids. We were a little too young to have listened to music during the period of this movie, but we listened to Dylan and some folk music that preceded Bob, like Pete Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy. Interestingly, we cribbed something from that—which was Pete [Seeger] doing the banjo "Ode to Joy" for Raising Arizona, which struck T-Bone, wherever he was since we hadn’t met him yet, which moved him to get in touch with us.
The brothers also shared an important lesson that all filmmakers should know:
Ethan Coen: Just don’t work with a cat.
Joel Coen: We should’ve known better because we had done it before on The Ladykillers, where we had plenty of stuff with cats, but it’s like we didn’t learn our lesson. In some weird way, at a certain point we realized that we were writing a movie with no plot where really nothing happens, so we thought, "Well, let’s put a cat in it."
The film has beautiful cinematography, evident in the trailer, courtesy of Bruno Delbonnel, who has previously lensed such films as Amelie and Tim Burton's Dark Shadows. This one looks like another winner from the brothers, who have always managed to maintain an independent spirit in their films, following their muse and making the films they want to make while managing to work within the Hollywood system.
Are you a Coen Brothers fan? Do you think an indie filmmaker can learn from their career of collaboration (and the way they have navigated Hollywood)? Have you ever worked with animals, and if so, how did it go? Let us know!