Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on May 6, 2014

Of course the movie "Inside Llewyn Davis" was well done. It is by the Coen Brothers and all that, but I do have one complaint. The time period between the waning of the influence of the Beats and the rise of what we call The Sixties was just those few years, from say 1959 until the summer of 1965 when the Grateful Dead band formed. Yet those years were not a dead space or a pause, but a very active transition time indeed. However, there has been very little coverage or documenting of that time. Here comes "Inside Llewyn Davis" from the Coen Brothers, said to document just that very time in 1961 before the advent of Bob Dylan.

Well, that would have to be the winter and early spring of 1961, because Dylan was fully there in late spring. I know because I happened to be traveling with Dylan in New York City in June of 1961, along with my good friend Perry Lederman, one of the great guitar instrumentalists of that era. All three of us hitchhiked together. So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to seeing this particular film. And now I will explain why for me it was such a disappointment.

I am no stranger to movies. After all, I founded the All-Movie Guide, one of the two largest movie databases on the planet, so I have seen my share of movies and then some. My family would testify to this.

And so it came as a shock for me to see the gray and somber tone of "Inside Llewyn Davis," flavored more with a Beat or Existentialist tone than the actual experience I remember from the time, which had its downs, of course, but especially its ups.

After all Bob Dylan and I were twenty years old in the spring of 1961. Think about that for moment. Life was fresh, too early to be soured by either age or experience. It was filled with promise and enthusiasm. Sure, we had watched too many Ingmar Bergman movies and thought we were in love with the dark European shtick of those times, but that was just a veneer we tried hard to maintain. Inside we were ebullient Americans and young ones at that. That time was very exciting indeed and we were totally up for it.

Unfortunately, the Coen Brothers showed the glass as half-empty, but failed to point out that it was also half-full. This was a big disappointment, because perhaps we will never get another movie about that time period, and this movie does not do the reality justice. It is way too dark IMO.

I am happy to see any coverage of this period as compared to none, but the big news of then was not the dying of The Beat movement with its drab and "so serious" take on life, but just the opposite, the first signs of husking that fa├žade off and the discovery that we young Americans wanted to live and love life, which the later 1960s would prove.

So thanks Coen Brothers for thinking of us and those times but, in my opinion, you missed the main point of way back then. To paraphrase Dylan, those not busy dying were busy being born.

We were busy being born and that, dear Cohen Brothers, would have made a great film.

[Photo of me around 1960. That is the activist Carl Olglesby standing behind me and his wife Beth sitting on the left. Yes I was 'so serious' back then, but mostly thrilled at being alive. ]