In the 1950s and '60s, there were other folk-music scenes. The old-timey musicians; the bluegrass people; the people around Alan Block's sandal shop; the people the real Jim and Jean hung out with. There was some interaction, but even if the people in those groups didn't see each other daily or weekly, there was goodwill. No one would know that from Inside Llewyn Davis.

I'm not detailing the ways in which Llewyn Davis differs from David. There are so few similarities, it would be easier to focus on them. The Coens say the movie isn't about Dave, and they are correct. Two wonderful scenes do relate specifically to David, though. In one, Llewyn Davis asks Mel, the owner of the record company that released his first album, for royalties, telling the man he doesn't even own an overcoat. Mel says, "Here, take my overcoat." When Davis finally takes it, Mel grabs it back and gives Davis $40. Mel is Moe Asch, owner of Folkways Records, and yes, that happened. In another scene, Davis says (perhaps sarcastically) to someone in the seaman's union, "You won't give me my papers because I'm a communist?" The man mutters, "Shachtmanite." That's a political reference that almost no one in the world will get -- but to me, who hung around but didn't join a small socialist sect known as the Shachtmanites, it's very, very funny.

And I was taken with the Oceanic art Andrea Vuocolo, Dave's widow, loaned the movie for use in the apartment of an unknown, invented older uptown couple. One piece is the best Oceanic one David and I had, which he took when we separated (I got our books and wonderful record collection, along with other art; he had record-borrowing privileges), and another on the wall that he got later is stunning.


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There are other pluses. Most of the acting is very good. Oscar Isaac is excellent -- he's real, and he brings pathos and anger to Llewyn Davis. His performances of David's songs are good, although I don't know why he gets an arranger's credit for "Dink's Song"; Andrea should collect royalties for David's arrangement of that. Carey Mulligan carries off being both bitchy and a good singer. John Goodman is wonderful as a sarcastic prick who sounds as though he comes out of the jazz world of several years earlier; he derives from Doc Pomus, who sang blues in the 1940s and later became a songwriter. F. Murray Abraham doesn't look like Albert Grossman, who had a full head of hair, but he has perfected Albert's blank stare.

The photography is excellent. The setting is winter, and a lot of the movie is filtered through snow and fog. The lighting is stunning.

The music? It's done well, but the movie never shows how it comes about. The inept Llewyn Davis arranged some of those songs? Sang them as well as Oscar Isaacs does? I don't believe it. That schmuck couldn't make that music. The Coens say they hope to create a revival of the music through the movie. A revival of traditional music is already under way. But I can't see the depressing world shown in this movie attracting people to it. I hope it at least attracts them to David's music and helps sell a lot of his CDs.

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