NEW YORK -- The 51st New York Film Festival only kicked off on Friday, but it's hard to imagine that any film that plays at the 17-day fest will leave town with more of a bounce from being here than CBS Films' Inside Llewyn Davis. The dramedy about the 1960s New York folk music scene, which was written and directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, just enjoyed a weekend to remember: its New York premiere took place at Alice Tully Hall on Saturday night and was followed on Sunday night by "Another Day, Another Time," a star-studded charity concert celebrating the music of the film at The Town Hall on Sunday. The film will go into limited release on Dec. 6 and the concert will air on Showtime a week later.
Llewyn Davis had its world premiere at May's Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded the Grand Prix. It then resurfaced earlier this month at the Telluride Film Festival, where the Coens and executive music producer T-Bone Burnett -- with whom they teamed on The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), The Ladykillers (2004) and now this film -- received a special tribute. And, on Saturday evening, it arrived in Gotham, with almost all of the creative team responsible for it on hand to take a pre-screening bow: the Coens were joined by Burnett, associate produer/singer Marcus Mumford and stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Adam Driver and Alex Karpovsky, among others. (Justin Timberlake was unable to attend as he is on tour in London.) At the end of the film, the tough New York audience offered it a strong round of applause.
But the major fireworks were saved for Sunday evening's sold-out concert, a portion of the proceeds from which will benefit the National Recording Preservation Foundation. I'm told that the idea for it was initially raised by Burnett and the Coens -- who previously put together a concert tour for O Brother -- and that it was then quickly coordinated by the film's super-producer Scott Rudin, CBS Films co-president Terry Press, CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves and Showtime chairman and CEO Matt Blank.
Regardless, it's hard to imagine that any other "pseudo-event" could have done a better job at raising awareness of and sparking excitement about the upcoming film than this event, which sold out the 1,500-seat Town Hall venue in less than 12 minutes. (Among those in attendance were Zooey Deschanel, Jesse Eisenberg, John Gallagher, Jr., Bennett Miller, D.A. Pennebaker, Paul Rudd and Edgar Wright.)
The three-and-a-half hour event, which was essentially emceed by a wise-cracking Goodman, featured performances of original songs that are heard in the film and of other tunes from the early sixties that inspired them, performed in an order that reflected the evolution of the folk genre. It boasted an eclectic but first-rate lineup of musical talents, ranging from sixties music icon Joan Baez to seventies music icon Patti Smith to "Justin Timberlake's understudy" Elvis Costello to numerous singing sensations of today, including Mumford, The Avett Brothers, Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Lake Street Drive, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, Lake Street Drive, The Milk Carton Kids, Conor Oberst, Punch Brothers, The Secret Sisters, Dave Rawlings Machine, Willie Watson, Gillian Welch, Jack White. They were joined on-stage by the film's own Isaac (humble but confident and capable), Mulligan (nervous despite singing well on-screen in Shame and Llewyn Davis), Driver (every bit as odd and amusing a performer off-screen as on) and Stark Sands. The audience seemed to eat up the entire evening, and this audience member thought was nice not only to hear such beautiful music, but to see performers of different generations demonstrate such respect and admiration for one another and one another's music.
During the concert's after-party, dozens of guests quickly gravitated toward an outdoor patio, where 72-year-old Baez and some friends were singing and dancing together for pure pleasure. Meanwhile, Rudin, Press and others working on the film sat off to the side with smiles on their faces, rather understandably.
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