Set in the folk scene of 1961 Greenwich Village, NYC, Ethan and Joel Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis puts an incredible emphasis on music. It is what fuels its titular hero and all the misfits, mumblers and musicians with whom he crosses paths. It is the medium that commincates what its wounded characters can't bare to say. Perhaps most importantly, it is the lifeblood that drives this moody and gorgeous drama. And in this newly unveiled video, the Coens sit down to talk about how Inside Llewyn Davis's soundtrack and soundscape evolved.
Deadline posted the above vid, which teases several tracks from the soundtrack along with commentary from the Coens, the soundtrack's producer T-Bone Burnett, star Oscar Isaac, sound re-recording mixer Greg Orloff, and more. There's some wonderful insights in this behind-the-scenes featurette. For one thing, the performances in the film were rehearsed in advance, but the plan was to perform and capture them live on camera. I admit, I was so caught up in the flow of Inside Llewyn Davis when I saw it that I never stopped to realize we might be seeing live performances versus lip-synced ones.
This is an unconventional approach to movie musicals to say the least. Tom Hooper's ambitious Les Miserables adaptation did it last year-- for better or worse--and long before that, writer/director/star John Cameron Mitchell featured live performances in his adaptation his stage musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. But a major reason these examples leap to my mind is because of how rare this is in film. The difficulty of this approach is detailed in the video. Isaac not only had to perform these songs masterfully while keeping in character, he had to do it twenty-some times to allow for all the camera coverage the cinematography demanded.
When I reviewed this film at NYFF, I wondered if its lack of histrionics or controversial themes might hurt Inside Llewyn Davis come award season. This featurette seems to be fighting for the film's chances there, working to remind us how deceptively simple and elegant the film is, and how much work went into its music, sound design and performances. The music in this film is extraordinary. The sound design is spectacular. Isaac (and his ensemble cast) are stupendous. Pay attention, Academy.
For more on the music of Inside Llewyn Davis, I recommend you check out the Showtime documentary Another Day/Another Time, which reveals the fantastic concert that celebrates the music that influenced and made it into the final film.