Big Lebowski/B+,A-
Polygram/1998/98m/WS,ANA 1.85
     The Big Lebowski is The Coen Brothers wild ode to film noir and Hollywood movie conventions. Those with sensitive ears, beware, the language sets a new standard for use of the "F" adjective. But it’s believable in terms of the characters. And at the same time it pokes fun at overuse of screen profanity. By the movie’s end and a thousand "F"s later, audiences will still be smiling at the amazing resilience of these unique screen characters.
     The pure inspiration for The Big Lebowski is a Raymond Chandler detective story. The Dude, the chief Lebowski of this twisted movie vision, is the stand-in for Chandler’s detective protagonist Phillip Marlowe, and he does an hilarious job of taking the beatings that the hard-boiled usually endures before solving a case. His adventure begins with physical debasement and ends in a triumph over the darker forces.
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Bridges admires the goods. ©MGM

      Like The Hudsucker Proxy, the stylized nod to madcap comedy of the thirties and forties, the Coen Brothers continue to find movie inspiration from the movies. Theirs is an individual style, a unique point of view that sees everything from another angle. These guys dare to be different in their filmmaking. Their instincts may not always be perfect, and they can wander dangerously within in a film, like the strange Sam Elliot cowboy character that narrates The Big Lebowski and seems to bear no relation whatsoever tot he story. But why not have a cowpoke with a deep-voice subbing for a fairy godmother in a film that includes some stunning dream sequences inspired by the musicals of Busby Berkeley.
     Jeff Bridges continues to deliver performances so integral to the movies he’s in that they disappear into the landscape of those films. Bridges’ longhaired, pot-hazed, Dude is a bigger than life caricature of the sixties dropout. Bridges finds a way to make a sympathetic portrait, even in this surreal landscape. John Goodman, a veteran of several Coen Brothers movies, is a terrific sidekick for Bridges. He brings a strange combination of danger and humor to the shell-shocked Walter. And Julianne Moore leaves an indelible impression as the somewhat Germanic, positively sado-masochistic daughter of phony financier Jeff Lebowski. There are some great cameos from performers as diverse as David Thewlis and Ben Gazzara. Maybe it will become the in thing for actors to do a Coen Brothers film instead of paying homage to the tired films of Woody Allen.
     Roger Deakins moves his camera majestically in delivering another elegant look to a Coen Brothers film. In contrast to the stark and icy landscape of Fargo, The Big Lebowski is a delicious bowl of luscious fruit. Carter Burwell’s music continues to embellish Coen images successfully and production designer Rick Heinrichs pumps the film with great visual style.
     The anamorphic transfer is very posh with a stunning balance of color from the Deakins camera. The dream segments are simply gorgeous with an assault of contrasting elements crystallizing with amazing depth. Resolution is first rate with little indication of over-enhancement. Only the black and white tile elements of the dance sequence seem to ring with added noise ever so slightly. The music tracks are outstanding and the Dolby Digital 5:1 surround is clean, with plenty of air around the diverse elements.
     Included in the package is a friendly short on the making of The Big Lebowski primarily featuring the brothers Coen, with smaller segments of Jeff Bridges and John Goodman. Ethan and Joel Coen explain the origins of the film, laugh at themselves and journalists alike, and seem to have a good old time doing what they love to do, making movies.





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