Wednesday 29 February 2012

"Eight year olds, Dude."

My old writers' group is due to discuss The Big Lebowski (1998) next week. 

The film is a true cult classic. It has given rise to a religion (Dudeism), a drinking game, a trivia game, bobblehead dolls, a line of ice-cream, a gallery of paintings, and a festival.  The 2011 reunion of the cast was written up in Rolling Stone magazine. 

The Big Lebowski is, above all, a story about male friendship; in real life, as well as in fiction. The rug idea came from Peter Exline. Jeff Dowd, another of the inspirations for the story, has described it as "a Raymond Chandler-type story, you know, dosed on acid." It's an interesting reworking of The Big Sleep, a book which has been filmed twice before; once with Humphrey Bogart and once with Robert Mitchum. The Mitchum version is truer to the book by Raymond Chandler. 

People have different views, but The Big Lebowski is, indisputably, the finest film ever made in which a protagonist hatches a plot to confront an adolescent car thief, somewhere in the vicinity of the In-And-Out Burger, while watching his landlord (dressed as a tree) perform a dance quintet.

Part of The Lebowski Cycle - Joe Forkan
The film is eminently quotable. Which is to say, the screenplay represents a master class in the construction of memorable dialogue. A tiny selection:
  • Look, let me explain something. I'm not Mr. Lebowski; you're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me. That, or Duder. His Dudeness. Or El Duderino, if, you know, you're not into the whole brevity thing--
  • Are you employed, sir?
  • The old man told me to take any rug in the house.
  • Way to go, Dude. 
  • If you will it, it is no dream.
  • Over the line!
  • Mark it zero!
  • Eight-year-olds, Dude.
  • Say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.
  • My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal. Which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina.
  • Do you like sex, Mr. Lebowski?
  • It's a male myth about feminists that we hate sex. It can be a natural, zesty enterprise.
  • He's a good man, and thorough. 
  • Papers. Just papers. You know, my papers. Business papers.
  • Isn't that what makes a man?
  • Oh, you know, the usual. Bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.
  • Oh, come on, Donny, they were threatening castration! 
  • Am I wrong? 
  • It's a complicated case, Maude. Lotta ins, lotta outs. Fortunately I've been adhering to a pretty strict, uh, drug regimen to keep my mind, you know, limber.
  • There's a beverage here!
  • Let's go bowling.
  • Ahh, you know. Strikes and gutters, ups and downs.
  • Yeah, well. The Dude abides.

The 2011 cast reunion of The Big Lebowski
When the film was first released, critics panned it. Later, after monster sales of video and DVD, and especially once the Lebowski Fests appeared, the critics revised their opinions. Here we have The New York Times film critic, A.O. Scott, talking about The Big Lebowski.

John Turturro, talking about his experience making The Big Lebowski.

And, to finish up, here's a montage of images from various Coen Brothers' movies, highlighting some common themes.

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Kathy said...

This is a very moving montage, brilliant highlights. From what movie is the scene where a motorcycle rides by a daisy and the daisy bursts into flames?

Henry Sheppard said...

'Raising Arizona'

Kathy said...