Inside Llewyn Davis, Just Not Dave Van Ronk
Let’s get one thing straight. This film is not about Dave Van Ronk.
For almost the entire year of 2013, there has been beyond incredible hype and buzz about the new Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis, and how it is loosely based on the life of singer and guitarist Dave Van Ronk, through the book The Mayor of MacDougal Street written with Elijah Wald.
Let’s get one thing straight. This film is not about Dave Van Ronk. It uses Van Ronk’s repertoire and certain facts and stories to tell the story of this basically loser folksinger who goes nowhere. Or maybe it’s the story of the cat that gets out of an Upper West Side apartment and then comes back, just like in the song “The Cat Came Back.”
Now the Coen Brothers say they like the music of that time and wanted to make a film about it. They enlisted the considerable talents of T-Bone Burnett to make sure the music was right, which he did.
But then they concocted one of the most preposterous story lines to go with it, about this guy wandering around, knocking women up, abortions that didn’t happen and abortions that are about to happen in a way that didn’t happen in 1962. Davis crashes from couch to couch, sometimes with this escaped cat, goes to Chicago, auditions for an Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan’s manager seen in the film Dont Look Back) comes back, obnoxiously yells at someone onstage (apparently based on folksinger Jean Ritchie), and gets the shit beat out of him as a young Bob Dylan takes the stage. That’s it.
As Dave Van Ronk’s ex-wife (and an even earlier Bob Dylan manager) Teri Thal pointed out in an excellent article in the Village Voice, the apartments are too clean. The hair is also a little longer than it should be for 1962.