BY MIRIAM RINN
Joel and Ethan Coen are the cinematic bards of failure. So many of their protagonists believe success is tantalizingly close, just to see it slip away. Is it arrogance? Fate? A malevolent universe? Just bad timing? In their latest droll examination of not-making-it, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the Coen brothers focus on a New York City folksinger in the early 1960’s, the historical moment just before the individual singer-songwriter and rock ‘n roll swept away the Beats, the folk music scene, and almost all of bohemian Greenwich Village. In other words, Bob Dylan is on his way to town.
The script is loosely based on the memoir by folksinger Dave Van Ronk, The Mayor of Macdougal Street, who was a leader of that group of city and suburban kids who fell in love with what they believed was the authentic sound of America. They gathered in Washington Square Park and in tiny coffeehouses to strum guitars and sing sea chanteys and ballads of lost loves, usually for next-to-no money.