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Coens bring 60s music scene to life in excellent film

ONE of the better aspects of the latest film from the Coen brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis, is the way it captures some of the essence of the folk circuit of Greenwich Village at the beginning of the 1960s. Although set in 1961, it was a transitional period where the 50s hadn't really ended and the 60s, as we've come to perceive them, hadn't really begun.

As the title character mooches around inviting failure at every turn, we get the sense that musicians were scrambling between styles, trying to fill the gap between the 50s rock 'n' roll, which had all but expired, and the 60s version of the same, which would be sparked by the twin-pronged attack of the Beatles and Bob Dylan.

What the film captures too is the essential bitchiness and suspicion between performers which exists within any scene, as some acts maintain an adherence to a notion of musical "purity" while others are simply biding their time until the right bandwagon comes along when they'll ditch the woolly jumpers, shave off their beards and start singing pop songs.

Capturing the essence of music, how it's made and the people who make it, is something which has been beyond the grasp of most filmmakers.

One film which did succeed in the tricky task was Good Vibrations, last year's excellent movie from the North, which told the story of how Terri Hooley set up a record shop and a label in Belfast at the height of the Troubles.


Hooley's remarkable story aside, there's one scene which captures the rivalry between bands better than any ever consigned to film. As the Undertones make their debut appearance on Top of the Pops with Teenage Kicks, Hooley and members of Rudi, the band who inspired Hooley to start his label, are watching the show on TV back in Belfast. The look on Rudi's lead singer's face is priceless as he tries to hold back his resentment and simply sneers "Would you look at the state of their trousers." Nailed.

Inside Llewyn Davis is in cinemas now

> George Byrne