Is the Coen Brothers’ Next Film About Iconic Folk Artist Dave Van Ronk?

     June 25, 2011


A few weeks ago we brought you some quotes from the Coen Brothers’ appearance at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in New York which suggested that their next film would be music-centric. At that time, the key quote came from Joel Coen who claimed:

“We’re working on a movie now that has music in it but it’s pretty much all performed live, single instrument…”

Today, 24 Frames is doing its best uncover more info behind the project and is reporting that the pic may center on one of the Greenwich Valley folk scene’s most revered names: Dave Van Ronk. Per the report, the Coen’s script is “loosely based” on van Ronk’s life as an influential musician and left-wing activist, and may even draw from Van Ronk’s posthumous memoir entitled The Mayor of MacDougal Street. If it comes to fruition, the project would be the Coens’ second musically-intensive film with the first being 2000’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? which garnered two Oscar nods. For a little more on the project, including a synopsis of Van Ronk’s memoir, hit the jump.

the-mayor-of-macgoudal-street-book-cover-imageAs mentioned, the initial word that the Coen Brothers were working on a musically-influenced script came from their hour-long discussion at the Lincoln Center event hosted at the Elinor Bunim Monroe Film Center in New York. In case you missed it, we posted video of the entire discussion with the brothers and Noah Baumbach.

At that time, they stated how their new project would “offer natural dialogue and the feeling of being dropped into the middle of a world.” For my money, there aren’t too many worlds I would rather be “dropped into” than a musical era/scene that helped spawn artists such as Bob Dylan.

Here’s a synopsis for Dave Van Ronk’s posthumous memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street which may be the source for some of the Coen Brothers’ script [from Amazon]:

Singer-songwriter Van Ronk did more than most to earn the heady title of his memoir, gussied up for publication by the author of the outstanding blues history Escaping the Delta(2004). In the folk-music ferment of late-fifties/early-sixties Greenwich Village, Van Ronk was a larger-than-life presence with a blustery personality to match his big frame, headlining the famous folk-music haunts and mentoring such up-and-coming stars as Bob Dylan. A masterful storyteller and robust singer who prided himself in making a living without leaving the Village, he was a musical sponge who picked up a wildly eclectic repertoire. He recalls the heyday of the pretourist, 1950s Village, before the so-called Folk Scare, when regulars went to Washington Square on Sunday afternoons for loose sessions that continued late into the night. He recalls first hearing Dylan–“the scruffiest-looking fugitive from a cornfield I do believe I had ever seen”–at a Village coffeehouse and being impressed (the new arrival thereafter often crashed on Van Ronk’s sofa). A richly evocative paean to a lost era.


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