This afternoon the Coen brothers and their cast gathered before the world’s press to glory in the overwhelmingly positive reaction to their 16th feature, Inside Llewyn Davis .
Playing in competition the previous night, Davis presents the mostly fictional life of the titular folk musician, living and playing in Greenwich Village in the early ‘60s.
“A lot of the music he plays is what [ real folk balladeer ] Dave Van Ronk played, but it’s just a made-up character,” explained Ethan, the brothers choosing to filter a specific time and place through their prodigious imaginations.
“We’ve always loved the music,” added Joel, “and we were interested in the whole scene in the village. People know less about [ the early ‘60s ] than when Dylan came in, in the late ‘60s.”
Folk is as important to Davis as bluegrass was to O Brother, Where Art Thou? and there are several scenes which required Oscar Isaac, playing the title character, and other assorted cast members to perform live on stage.
“It’s me singing, we recorded the music live,” smiles Isaac, today looking a good deal more groomed than he does in the film. “Singing and playing… it’s what we all did.”
Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake nod in agreement. They play a singing couple called Jim and Jean.
“It was very frightening!” laughs Mulligan. “But Joel and Ethan made us feel very comfortable.”
Timberlake, of course, had less to fear, but is keen to point out that he connected with the material despite the folk singers in the movie being all but penniless.
“Before Dylan became a poster child, so many people were experimenting with sound,” he says. “It was avant-garde. I can relate to that. Me and my producer always experiment.”