Retrospective on the Coen brothers

A season of classics opens in Dublin

One of the great success stories of recession-hit Dublin last year was the fact that the Lighthouse  ema in Smithfield didn’t close down. This was feared for a long time after the original owners couldn’t afford to keep it running at a loss any longer and a new buyer couldn’t be found.

I always loved the Lighthouse for its cosiness, going back to the days when it was situated in Abbey Street. Its present location in Smithfield’s Market Square is attractive for different reasons, its post-modern expanse making it spoiled for space in an age when most cinemas are downsizing.

It’s a highly distinctive place because of its split level design, the wood effect on all the floors and the dark basement bar. But most of all it stands out because of its imaginative film choices, which are just as good as those of the Irish Film Institute, and for most of the same reasons.

This month they’re having a season of films of the precocious Coen Brothers, which seems appropriate as this directorial duo are post-modern in their style as well.

From January 15 we have The Big Lebowski, one of the most offbeat films I’ve ever seen, though it won’t be to everyone’s taste. Featuring Jeff Bridges in one of his rare experimental roles, he plays a character called The Dude who’s mistaken for a millionaire. This gets him into all sorts of problems, most of which he greets with a sense of so-whatness.

Oh Brother Where Art Thou? is showing from January 22. Like The Big Lebowski, this has a mainstream star (George Clooney) cast decidedly against type. Clooney plays an ex-convict and the film itself is a musical comedy based loosely on Homer’s Odyssey. (Why didn’t I think of that?)

The retrospective continues on January 25 and 26 with Down From the Mountain, an absorbing recording of a bluegrass concert with luminaries like Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley and Gillian Welch.

Rounding off the season, as one might have expected, is the Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men on January 27. This has a performance (and a haircut) from Javier Bardem that has to be seen to be believed. Rarely has callousness been as harrowingly depicted as here. Tommy Lee Jones isn’t half bad either in an elegiac turn, but for me the performance of the film was that of Kelly McDonald as one of Bardem’s victims.

This film will chill you to the bone, just as the Coen Brothers earlier Blood Simple did. It’s a pity this isn’t showing as it’s my all-time favourite of their works for its atmospheric minimalism. As a consolation, Fargo, a film ‘blanc’ as opposed to a film noir (it’s the snow, isn’t it?) began showing on January 8, with a stand-out performance from Frances McDormand as a dotty police officer.   

One has to be 18 to see the films as they have adult content. Parking is €4 for three hours in the nearby Queen Street but the Luas is only a minute’s walk so may be preferable.

You can see three films for €21 but this offer doesn’t include the last one of the season, the Coens’ latest offering, Inside Llewellyn Davis, which deals with a struggling folk singer in Greenwich Village in 1961 as I mentioned a few weeks back.

Details of booking are available on