The Big Lebowskl (1998) The Big Lebowski. a comic take on the Raymond Chandler detective model. is arguably the Coen brothers‘ best film simply because it ties together to dazzling effect the prevalent thematic and filrnic motifs found in all their other films to date. in much the same way that David Lynch‘s Lost Highway achieves a cohesive impact.
The Western. Broadway spectaculars of the 1930s. Chandler. Heaven and Hell. fragile masculinity. dysfunctional families and dismembered body parts — all of these inspirations and preoccupations are poured into the pot in a tale of mistaken identity. Little Jeffrey Lebowski. a habitual dope-smoker commonly known as ‘The Dude'. is violently mistaken for his millionaire namesake. Big Jeffrey Lebowski. Coen regulars John Turturro. Steve Buscemi and Peter Stomare (playing Uli. the hilarious weasel-wielding German nihilist) deliver outstanding performances. and Jeff Bridges shines in the definitive role of his acting career. playing the unlikely hero of the piece.
As to the key scene of the film. its a tough call because Roger Deakin‘s gleaming carnerawork. T- Bone Bumett‘s eclectic soundtrack and the Coens‘ pithy dialogue combine at so many points to produce sheer cinematic brilliance. However. casting Turturro as the mad bowler/sex offender Jesus Quintana is nothing short of inspired genius. (Catherine Bromley)
14 THE LIST 18 Oct—1 Nov 2001
0 Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Quite what goes on in the genius minds of the Coen siblings is anyone‘s guess. But the day they decided to place mythological characters from Homer‘s 0(1'\‘.S‘.S‘€_\‘ in 1930s Mississippi. they took their off-beat quirkiness to a whole new level. Everett (George Clooney). Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) and Pete (John Tunurro) are three hapless but well- intentioned criminals. who bust out of a chain gang in search of Everett‘s buried treasure. Along the way they encounter a blues guitarist who‘s sold his soul to the devil: a violent bible salesman; bank robber George ‘Babyface’ Nelson and a clutch of itinerant folk who either impart pearls of wisdom or hand them in for the bounty.
Pan screwball comedy. pan morality tale and with a wonderful country/folk soundtrack. () Bmther is a visual feast which demands big screen viewing. From luscious yellow comfields to the blazing crosses of a Klu Klux Klan meet: a forest teaming with gospel singers to three glistening sirens perched on a rock. exquisite frames are in big supply. What it can do. however. is capture the collective wit of Clooney's hair product-obsessesed maverick (‘My hair!~ he yells as he wakes). Nelson's loveable redneck and Turturro‘s aspirational fool. O Coen Brothers. Thou Art Where It‘s At. (Kelly Apter)
«it Li i- I; l \l x‘
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
The Man Who Wish 'I There nimny evades definition. It‘s a comedy that will break your heart; it‘s a loving pastiche that’s like nothing you‘ve ever seen before. Blending the loopy humour of The Big Lebrm'ski with the blackness of Barton Fink and the immaculate retro styling of The Hudsueker I’mrv. it‘s the Coens‘ most complex and brilliant achievement to date.
Picture a barber’s shop. circa 194‘). The barber. lid Crane (Billy Bob Thornton). is a quiet man — but suddenly. mid-haircut. he‘s moved to pronounce upon the ephemeral nature of his profession. He keeps cutting the hair: the hair keeps growing. Where does it all come from? Where does it go to‘.’ We see the client's scalp. an infinite blond whorl: we share Ed‘s simple bafﬂement. It‘s a moment of pure C oen audacity. seamlessly merging the comic and the profound.
No one reacts to [id's impromptu existential lament. In fact. no one reacts to Ed much at all. until he's drawn into disaster by a bad investment. at faithless wife (Frances McDormand again playing the cuckolder) and a bungled blackrnailing. Wreathe the whole thing in shadows and smoke. and you have the surreal philosophical film noir Preston Sturges never got depressed enough to make. We're lucky to live in their time. (Hannah McGill — film critic on The Herald.)
The Man Who Wasn’t There plays GFT, Glasgow and the Cameo, Edinburgh from Fri 26 Oct. There is a preview of the film at the Cameo on Sat 20 Oct as part of a Coen brothers all-nighter where it plays with Fargo, Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski. The List has two pairs of tickets to give away. Simply send a correct answer, postcard or email (film@|ist.co.uk) to this question: Who is Roderick Janes?