In a Q&A after a recent screening of Another Day/Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis, T Bone Burnett was asked why he wanted to create a four hour concert celebrating the music of Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest film, and Burnett simply replied that he wanted to “keep the movie alive.” To which he quickly added, “Even though that seemed lame.” But Another Day/Another Time is anything but lame – it’s a true celebration of the music featured in, and inspired by, the Coen brothers’ folk odyssey.
Burnett, along with Marcus Mumford (who served as an associate music producer on Inside Llewyn Davis and who also appears on the soundtrack), brought together a variety of musicians to put on a concert at New York City’s Town Hall, which director Christopher Wilcha then turned into a documentary by filming the days leading up to the concert along with the concert itself.
Just as Inside Llewyn Davis focuses on the performances and lets the film’s singers play without interruption, Wilcha created a stripped down music documentary that features the performances rather than the stories behind them. Another Day/Another Time gives audiences a front row seat and makes you feel like you are actually in Town Hall, only realizing you’re not when Wilcha slyly cuts from performance footage to shots of rehearsal.
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) was all about his music and would take umbrage with anyone who questioned his passion (most notably his poor sister) and the emotion at the root of that behavior is what is celebrated in Wilcha’s documentary. Just as Llewyn did not feel the need to explain his music, Wilcha uses limited interviews from the participating artists, letting their music speak for itself instead. He rarely cuts away from of a captivating performance to an interview piece as the brief interviews are more of a transitional tool than main attraction. Thanks to this approach, Wilcha creates a fly on the wall experience as we watch Burnett pace around the room, usually with a burning stick of palo santo incense in his hand, while the performers work out who will sing what and how best to arrange each song.
In Inside Llewyn Davis, Llewyn is constantly threatened by and fighting against the other musicians around him (and understandably so, as he is going through both emotional and musical turmoil), but Another Day/Another Time allows that narrative to be lifted to focus solely on the music of the movie. Isaac takes the stage in the documentary to perform “Green, Green Rocky Road,” proving his musical chops are not an act, but it is the documentary’s final performance featuring Isaac, Mumford, and The Punch Brothers singing “Fare Thee Well” that will stay with you long after the credits roll. Burnett has yet again curated an amazing line up of music and while these songs certainly pack an emotional punch within the narrative of Inside Llewyn Davis, Another Day/Another Time lets them shine.
Beyond simply paying tribute to American folk music, Burnett wanted the concert to bring together musicians, both young and old, to trade their “currency of knowledge” and learn from one another. Where Llewyn tries to go it alone, Another Day/Another Time brings everyone together. We watch as artists like The Avett Brothers, Jack White, The Milk Carton Kids, Willie Watson, and Jack Ashford plus veteran artists like Joan Baez and Patti Smith collaborate in rehearsal, and the creative energy captured in that room is electric (even moving Mumford to tears at one point).
This creative energy does not stay contained to the practice space. We see it spill out into the hallways of Town Hall as these various musicians wait to take the stage. Because, as all the artists in the documentary point out, folk music was for general “folks” and designed for anyone to sing or play and join in. And it is that sentiment, one which Llewyn struggles with, that Another Day/Another Time perfectly captures.
Another Day/Another Time is currently airing on Showtime and Burnett recently announced that a 35 track album of the documentary’s music will be released in 2014.