“The Big Lebowski” Still Abides After All These Years

Dude!

Rolling Stone once called it “the most worshiped comedy of its generation.” I like to think of it the Book of Duderonomy, the lost gospel of the post-modern Testament. Now the beloved Coen classic of easy living and competitive bowling on the absurdist mean street of Los Angeles arrives on Blu-ray. Presenting The Big Lebowski: Limited Edition (Universal). You’ll like its style, man.

Jeff Bridges is brilliant as the Dude, one of the most strangely centered individuals in the movies. This bowler/stoner/free spirit is mistaken for a millionaire (David Huddleston) by a band of German punk nihilists, and John Goodman is his Vietnam Vet bowling buddy, who sinks him deeper into trouble with one testosterone-and-rig​hteous-indignation-f​ueled scheme after another. Think of it as a slacker “The Big Sleep,” a shaggy dog parody of classic L.A. detective stories where the passive hero is threatened, confronted, assaulted, seduced, drugged and so completely bummed out that he’s forced to solve a mystery so everyone will just leave him alone to enjoy his dope and his Dylan.

The Coens concoct an absurdist Chandler-esque mystery, drop in a couple hilarious dream fantasies (including a bowling dream sequence by way of Busby Berkley, complete with credits), and even bring in a drawling Sam Elliot to narrate this tall tale like a western myth. Julianne Moore co-stars as an avant-garde artist turned Valkyrie fantasy, and Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ben Gazzara co-star.

It’s not the most successful, famous or critically acclaimed film by the Coen Bros., but it surely has the most dedicated fan base. In fact, the Blu-ray was launched at Lebowskifest 2011, complete with a cast reunion and an audience Q&A.

You can get a brief glimpse of highlights from the evening at Videodrone. The complete cast reunion Q&A — a very groovy event with Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro and “music archivist” T-Bone Burnett — can be viewed via Livestream on the movie’s official Facebook page. See Jeff Bridges lead the audience in a chant, hear John Turturro describe his idea for a sequel starring The Jesus (it’s called, of course, “The Second Coming”) and enjoy the group answering questions they can barely hear due to screwy stage acoustics. But you’ll need to hurry — it will only be up for a week.

Continue reading at Videodrone.

DVD of the Week – ‘The Fall’ – September 9, 2008

Long ago in a fantasy far, far away...

Tarsem Singh’s The Fall may not be the best film of 2008, but it is was one of my greatest joys of the year, a lovely reminder that stories don’t belong to the teller. They have a life of their own. They live in the hearts and minds of those who hear them, read them, see them, whose experiences ricochet and reverberate off the characters and narrative turns and story details, expanding and enriching them with their own personal meanings. Tarsem Singh’s second feature is a glorious embrace of narrative innocence directed as a deliciously, vividly visual phantasmagoria of an adventure fantasy. As an injured silent movie Hollywood stuntman (Lee Pace) with a broken heart spins his make-believe epic to little immigrant girl Alexandria, a child migrant worker in the orange orchards who broke her arm in a fall, their respective personal experiences and cultural references mix for a story that shifts with each new addition and adjustment. It’s like a Terry Gilliam film directed by Zhang Yimou, with a script concocted by a child. Shot all over the world, it’s stunning to look at and a charge to see the travelers make their through a world where you can leap a continent just by crossing over the next rise. The story imagery and character identities are equal parts imagination and appropriation from the real world, and those connections, far from being deeply symbolic, are almost naively direct reflections of their respective emotional lives. It’s a sophisticated film about the naive pleasures of stories and storytelling.

Director Tarsem solos on one of the two commentary tracks in a near monotone of a voice, but packs his talk with illuminating observations and interesting production details. Actor Lee Pace and co-writers Dan Gilroy and Nico Soultanakis are only slightly more animated and far less informative in their track. Also features two deleted scenes (running barely 90 seconds) and two behind-the-scenes featurettes (that together run almost an hour).

It’s also available in beautiful Blu-ray edition. I review the film in my MSN DVD column here.

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