“Another Day/Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis,” which debuted Friday, Dec. 13 on Showtime, is not a documentary about the Coen Brothers’ film.
It’s a sensational documentary that takes a look at some of the most talented musicians around who got together on Sept. 29, 2013 in New York City’s Town Hall to perform together and separately, and whose music – folk, blues, bluegrass – is true to the spirit of the Coen brothers film. Musician T. Bone Burnett, credited with the soundtrack for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and the movie’s directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, presented the concert.
Some of the performers are famous, most notably Jack White, Joan Baez, Gillian Welch, Patti Smith and Marcus Mumford. They are all pretty terrific. But Patti Smith’s rendition of the folk standard “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” is profound and spellbinding, a standout.
Other musicians, who aren’t big names, but who will blow you away with their enormous talent, include the Milk Carton Kids, Rihannon Giddens, Willie Watson and the Punch Brothers. I never heard of Lake Street Dive, a sensational group with a powerhouse singer, who performed a bluesy “You Go Down Smooth,” with a jive Motown beat. They are as much fun to watch as they are to listen to. (Their Dec. 28 concert at the Bell House in Brooklyn is already sold out.)
The real revelation is Oscar Isaac – who just picked up a Golden Globe nomination Thursday for best actor for “Inside Llewyn Davis” – who performs solo and with the other acts.
At the Walter Reade Theater Wednesday following a screening of the documentary, musicians Chris Thile and Chris Eldridge (Punch Brothers), and Kenneth Pattengale (The Milk Carton Kids), joined Oscar Isaac for a Q&A moderated by New York Times reporter David Carr.
Before the screening, I saw Joel Coen who smiled and thanked me warmly when I told him how much I liked “Inside Llewyn Davis.” His wife Francis McDormand and actor David Strathairn were also in the theater.
Carr, who attended the concert and spent time backstage and at rehearsals, reminisced about the evening as much as he posed questions. He mentioned that John Goodman complained how tight quarters were backstage, and how he felt out of place. “He said he felt oafish, large and offish,” Carr said. Sadly, because he sounded hilarious, Goodman ended up on the cutting room floor.
Carr asked Isaac if he felt a little out of place that night when he looked around and saw all the talented musicians with whom he was going to be performing.
“Yes, I did,” he said softly. “It was absolutely terrifying. It was definitely the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life and yeah, these are people who have dedicated their life to this music, and I think I was a little outside,” he said. “Yeah, I played for a long time, but never to this extent,” but “T-Bone, Joel and Ethan, instilled a lot of confidence in me as well, where they got me to the point where I felt like I could even walk onto the stage with these guys.”
“You acquitted yourself well,” Carr said.
The Coens told Carr that when they first auditioned for the title character of Llewyn Davis, they looked for a musician who could act. When that didn’t work, they searched for an actor who could play.
Isaac said during his audition with Burnett he told him he’d played the guitar for 20 years.
Isaac said Burnett replied, “No, you owned a guitar for 20 years.”
“That’s kind of mean,” Carr remarked.
Isaac agreed, “Yes, but it got me working.”
“Another Day/Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis” is currently available on Showtime on Demand.