Zenosbooks

(03/31/2008) The Big Lebowski by J. M. Tyree & Bern Walter. London. 2008. British Film Institute. keywords: Film America. 123 pages. 9781844571734.

'The Dude abides. ' This film has become a cult classic since its release in 1998. Here, the Coen brothers deliver a take on the classic LA Chandleresque mystery. In their version however, 'the detective' is a person who on the surface seems to be the person least capable to figure out what is going on. Both film and the BFI book are highly recommended. The British Film Institute produces a great series of film books. Each of their 'film classics' explore individual films and are excellent companions to the films themselves.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Ethan and Joel Coen's 'The Big Lebowski' was released in 1998 to general bafflement. A decade on, it has become a cult classic, inspiring a thriving circuit of 'Lebowski Fests' during which costumed devotees gather at bowling alleys and guzzle White Russians. Beyond its superabundance of deliciously quotable lines, how has the movie inspired such remarkable affection? And why does its critical stock continue to rise? The film's unlikely anchor is Jeff Bridges' career-best performance as Jeffrey Lebowski, a fully-baked 1960s radical turned Venice Beach drop-out known to his friends as 'the Dude'. Mistaken for an identically-named grandee whose young trophy wife is in trouble, the Dude finds himself embroiled in an impossibly convoluted kidnap plot involving pornographers, nihilists and threats to his 'Johnson'. Worst of all, it conflicts with his bowling commitments. In part an irreverent pastiche of Raymond Chandler's 'The Big Sleep' (as filmed by Howard Hawks), 'The Big Lebowski' is also a jukebox of film history, littered with playful and subversive references to everything from Hitchcock and Altman to Busby Berkeley. This riot of addled quotations reflects the film's Los Angeles setting, a discombobulated world inhabited by flakes, phonies and poseurs with put-on identities. Like many Coen works, the movie plays havoc with the conventions of the crime genre and the absurdities of classical American 'heroism'. But The 'Big Lebowski' is also that rare thing, a comedy that gets richer, funnier and more affecting with each viewing. Beneath its breakneck pacing and foul-mouthed ribaldry, the Dude's story offers disarmingly humane lessons in the value of simple things: friendship, laughter and bowling.

J.M. Tyree is a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University. Ben Walters is Deputy Film Editor at Time Out London and has written books on Orson Welles and 'The Office'.

 

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