Home1-2526-5051-100101-50151-200201-250251-300
-
THE BIG LEBOWSKI
1998 - Joel and Ethan Coen
United States
44
Opening Shot

Over the sound of music ("Drifting Along with the Tumbling Tumble Weed"), the camera tracks along through a desert as we then hear voice-over "Way out west there was this fella that I wanna tell you about. Fella by the name of Jeff Lebowski. Least that was the handle that his lovin' parents gave him. But he never had much use for it himself. This Lebowski, he called himself the Dude. Now Dude- that's a name no one would self apply where I come from. But then there was a lot about the Dude that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, and a lot about where he lived likewise. But then again, maybe that's why I found the place so darn interesting." The shot ends with a pan up looking through the desert mountain top and out toward the city Los Angeles….

The Film

This is such a hilarious film!! It is full of layers and as they layers get revealed with repeat viewings, the beautiful depth of the film becomes fresher and even more alive. To me the Coen Brothers 1998 The Big Lebowski is the best film they ever made. As a filmmaking achievement it may be their most underrated film, probably because it was released after their most critically acclaimed film, Fargo (which is worthy of every ounce of praise it receives). Don't really bother digging deep for a plot-line because their isn't much of one. In fact the rather strange point of the film, which also represents that of it's main characters behavior, is that everything is pointless; especially in the films setting of Los Angeles. Think of this as a Coen-esque version of Howard Hawks classic noir The Big Sleep. What results is an odd, funny, and joyous cinematic world of beautiful visuals, great music, wonderful dialogue and interesting characters. The Coen Brothers are such gifted, smart, and respectful filmmakers. They have a way of using their knowledge and influences of cinema history and incorporating into their own dazzlingly and creative filmmaking style (with each film different then the next). The mood is set from the start as the narrator loses his train of thought and forgets what he was working up to. It's truly a brilliant film with some of the strangest and ultimately funniest scenes and dialogue in cinema (capped off with the wonderfully bizarre musical dream sequences which feature Jeff Daniels flying, Julianne Moore bowling in a Viking costume, Saddam Hussien renting bowling shoes, and a fascinating point-of-view shot inside a rolling bowling ball!). I also enjoyed the simple yet thoughtful political insights, references and metaphors. Really, once you stop looking for the film's answers and start accepting the odd pleasures that it has to offer, everything seems flawless. Every performance in the film is perfect, and Jeff Daniels as "Dude" is definitely among the most memorable characters in film. Also this film MUST be watched more then once! It gets even funnier with each viewing. It's impossible to name the funniest film ever made, but this may be the first to cross my mind. Few films offer as many laughs as this artistically hilariously, and flawless masterpiece. "The Dude abides!"

The Filmmakers

The Coen brothers Joel and Ethan stand among the most interesting and original directors of contemporary American film. They have a brilliant ability at taking formulas, genres, and influences of Hollywood past and turning them into genuinely original modern recreations. Similar to filmmakers of their era (Jim Jarmusch, John Sayles, and John Waters) the Coen brothers are independent filmmakers who are working without studio restrictions, which gives each of their films an artistic and creative freedom many filmmakers in mainstream American cinema don't have. What results is a truly unique and clever mix of films. At the core of each Coen release is modern spin on old Hollywood. Cleary the Coen brothers have a love and passion of classic American films and they respectfully use the love as influence in their own modern and original form of filmmaking. In all their work, the Coens have a Preston Sturges-like (a filmmaker who they admittedly admire) screwball element to comedy as well as their inside jokes and references. One of the definitive aspects of their work that is always evident is the conscious focus of time and especially of place. In each of their films the settings become as critical as the characters of their cinematic universe. This is the Coens greatest strength, the ability to blend their modern recreations of influences into their world or settings. Take their debut film as example: 1984's Blood Simple is a neo-noir crime thriller set in Texas. The film uses expressive sounds and selfish characters (each of whom can not be trusted) to examine an ironic view of modern society. The film would also blend the Coens masterful dark comedy (notably in the perfect final shot). The Coen brothers have since made some of the most original films of contemporary American film, each of which would share these similar qualities of combining influence and setting. The year of 1996 marked a more mainstream and critical success for the Coen's with the release of Fargo, which earned them three Academy Awards nominations including a win for Best Screenplay. The Coen brothers followed up the success of Fargo with what I believe to be their greatest artistic and comedic achievement 1998's The Big Lebowski. Again the film features an emphasis on influence (notably The Big Sleep) and setting (Los Angeles) as well as their quintessential screwball humor to create a film that is equally hilarious, ironic, original, and an expressive examination of American society. Above all the Coens are great comedian filmmakers (to me, Raising Arizona and Big Lebowski are two of the funniest films ever made). I do believe their films of the 21st century have lacked some of the originality that made their previous work so wonderful (the remake of The Ladykillers is perhaps their only below average film to date), but the Coen brothers do remain among American cinema's leading contemporary filmmakers and fresh off the Oscar success of 2007's No Country For Old Men they may have moved into the forefront of American directors.

Images
Zoom in
Zoom in
Zoom in
Zoom in
Zoom in
Resources
trailer (youtube)      
-