Magazine article The Nation

The Big Lebowski

Magazine article The Nation

The Big Lebowski

Article excerpt

The Big Lebowski is the Coen brothers' new farrago: a Western fable apparently conceived as a pendant to their recent Midwestern film. The setting this time is Los Angeles--an L.A. composed solely of rambling mansions and urine-colored apartments, with nothing to connect them but freeways and fantasy. The only public space in town, apart from Ralph's supermarket, seems to be a bowling alley. Its chief inhabitants are The Dude (Jeff Bridges, looking Christlike in dark sunglasses and surfer shorts) and Walter (John Goodman with a brush cut and amber aviator shades).

The story? As in Fargo, a woman has been kidnapped, or so her husband claims. I doubt I will hamper your enjoyment--the plot being as flimsy as a box of cornflakes and similarly startling in design--if I tell you things are not what they seem. Or, to be briefer: Things are not, period. In the Coen brothers' L.A., all of life is but the play of illusion, which is why The Dude just sips his White Russians and tries to take it easy.

Given Joel Coen's skill as a director and the assistance of Roger Deakins as cinematographer, the quality of the illusions is often very high. There's a remarkable shot near the beginning in which the camera drifts back from one lane to the next while the bowlers glide to their foul lines in slow motion, each one rapt in concentration and therefore isolated, all of them together performing a syncopated dance. You see why a bowling alley might serve as refuge for an inveterate stoner such as The Dude. …

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