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Mark Newstetter
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Saw the film last night. Having been a denizen of the Village singer songwriter coffee house scene some dozen years later in the mid '70s, I'm always interested to see skilled filmmakers' take on the subject. I'm also Dave Van Ronk fan. But more to the point: To me, the Gorfeins were nothing more or less than liberal Jewish anthropologists who would have befriended LLewyn Davis at some earlier point in his career simply as lovers of folk music and folk cultures in general. Let's not forget that none other than Pete Seeger was the son of an ethnomusicologist. The world of academia was never far from Folk Music in New York during the '50s and '60s. So there really is no dissonance in LLewyn having the Gordeins as patrons. They would have come to him in their study of American folk music of the mid 20th century and been only too glad to open their home to him as patrons of the arts. Mikes parents? .... ???? No. Maybe it's a bit of a failure on the Coens' part that this detail of the film is being misread. There is a kind of shorthand going on here that some might not get. The conversation between LLewin and the "Early Music" scholar reveals the real dissonance in the relationship between the Academic world and the Folk Scene. LLewyn has to know what is meant by "Early Music" but choses to joke about his piano teacher playing Harry James. He's comes off as an anti intellectual, but the deeper truth is that what he does IS- in a strong sense - early music. The folk singers of the '60s saw themselves as part of the legacy of folk music going back to the medieval troubadours and jongleurs. Llewyn was willing to be observed by the Gorfeins as an anthropological curiosity - or a vicarious lifeline to the world of real living breathing folk music, but only to a point. The line is crossed when Lillian G. starts singing. He launches into a tirade that pretty much says it all. He's not there to be poked and prodded like a lab experiment for their amusement - and he's not there to lead a private sing-along. He was reluctant to sing in the first place and just wanted to get it over with. But he also had a chip on his shoulder which was all about being taken seriously as a professional artist. There's so much implicit in the scenes with LLewyn and the Gorfeins, et al, which speaks to the reality of the New York early '60s folk music scene - why get distracted making up silly plot devices?
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Dec 22, 2013