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The Coen Brothers Next Film Will Take On The ’60s New York City Folk Scene

The Coen Brothers Next Film Will Take On The '60s New York City Folk Scene

Will Be Loosely Based On The Life Of Dave Van Ronk; Will They Shoot On 16mm?

It wasn’t too long ago that we got our first morsel of info on what the Coen Brothers might be following up their adaptation of “True Grit” with. We sat in on a conversation the sibling directors had with Noah Baumbach at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center earlier in the month and they revealed they were at work on a music-based project. While they were mum on most of the details, they said it was “kind of like ‘Margot At The Wedding,’ ” Baumbach’s 2007 film, in which during the immediate opening of the film, the audience is just dropped into a scene already in progress without any setup or establishing shots or narration to let them know what’s going on. Joel Coen also suggested that the music in the mystery film would be “pretty much all performed live, single instrument.” Well, there is now a much more complete picture of where the Coens will be venturing next.

24 Frames reveals the duo are currently at work on a script that is loosely based on the life of Dave van Ronk, an American folk singer who presided over the Greenwich Village scene in the 1960s that give birth a new wave of artists that included Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Joni Mitchell. Guru to younger musicians, a encyclopedia of blues and folk history, and an accomplished performer in his own right, Ronk was nicknamed “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” which also served as the title of his posthumous memoir, from which the Coens are said to be drawing their material.

Interestingly, the Coens have been talking with longtime cinematographer Roger Deakins about the film for a while now. In an interview with CHUD back in February, Deakins said that the directors might be looking to capture the feel of that era by reverting to an old-school format. Asked where or not he’d shoot the next Coens project digitally, Deakins said, “That’s interesting, because they’ve got a project they want to look like a 16mm Ricky Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker type of documentary, so we’re not sure. We talked about shooting it on film, but the other option is to shoot it digitally and make it look like old 16mm film afterwards. I don’t know.” Of course, we don’t have to mention that Pennebaker shot the seminal Dylan doc “Don’t Look Back” and we’d assume that might have some influence here as well.

It would certainly be a nice visual shakeup, an intriguing prospect. Of course, the Coens have always been noted for their excellent musical ear and this project certainly spurs reminders of “O Brother, Where Art Thou.” In addition to being a great film, that movie spawned a best-selling soundtrack CD, — which is getting an expanded reissue in August — won Grammy awards and even led to a nationwide tour. The ’60s New York folk scene will certainly give the Coens rich territory to mine, and we presume it’s only a matter of time before we hear T-Bone Burnett will come back to work them on the musical end of things.

It’s another fascinating turn for the Coens and one we’re intrigued to see come together.

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