“FARGO” AND “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN” may have all the awards, and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” may have the soundtrack, but “The Big Lebowski” is arguably the Coen brothers‘ biggest film of all.
It’s certainly the only one with its own festival.
Ten years ago, however, it was a critical and commercial flop: another smart movie about dumb people, a genre the Coens may not have created but have certainly mastered.
Yet “The Big Lebowski” never condescends to its characters, as many of their films do. In fact, the Coens show uncharacteristic affection for the main character, a perpetually stoned and pathologically laid-back bowler named the Dude (played with stoned slyness by Jeff Bridges).
As he bumbles through a Chandleresque mystery involving a wealthy baron and a band of German nihilists (“Ve believe in nuzzink!”), the Dude comes across as a bizarre masculine ideal, his narcotized demeanor almost a zen state.
For this reason — and also because practically every other line is imminently quotable in everyday conversation (“You see what happens, Larry?”) — “The Big Lebowski” has become a major cult phenomenon, rescued from “Hudsucker Proxy“-like obscurity by legions of loyal college kids, stoners and bowlers.
And yet, for 10 years the film has languished with lackluster DVD editions, the first of which boasted interactive menus as a key feature and the second of which seemed cobbled together haphazardly. As if to compensate, Paramount is releasing a two-disc 10-year anniversary edition packaged in a collector’s bowling ball. It’s kitschy, a bit awkward to shelve, but perfectly in keeping with the movie.
More importantly, this is simply a well-thought-out edition, with new interviews, makings-of and an interactive map that will surely inspire day trips around L.A. Best of all is a long segment on the Lebowski Fest, which began in 2004 and has been growing ever since.
Through interviews with the organizers and attendees, the documentary shows the fans’ devotion to the movie’s minutiae as well as to its peculiar hero. The fest is endearing and a bit baffling, but it looks like it’s as much fun as the movie it celebrates.
Written by Express contributor Stephen M. Deusner
Photos courtesy Grammercy Pictures