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Film Noir: The Big Sleep Essay

1069 words - 5 pages

Film Noir is a genre of distinct and unique characteristics. Mostly prominent in the 40s and 50s, the genre rarely skewed from the skeletal plot to which all Film Noir pictures follow. The most famous of these films is The Big Sleep (1946) directed by Howard Hawks. This film is the go to when it comes to all the genre’s clichés. This formula for film is so well known and deeply understood that it is often a target for satire. This is what the Coen brothers did with 1998’s The Big Lebowski. This film follows to the T what Film Noir stands for.
The Big Lebowski is a stoner comedy about a middle-aged hippie who likes to go bowling. The main action of the plot begins when two thugs break into ...view middle of the document...

Though this is a smaller concern given that Bunny has indeed kidnapped herself, and returns after a brief trip; her friends, the nihilists had faked the kidnapping, hoping to get the money before she came home. In a crazy out of no where side plot, Maude has decided to have the Dude’s baby, assuring him in no uncertain terms that he will not be welcome in its life. This baby, the inexplicably Western-derived narrator tells us, is meant to balance out the recent death of Donny, who had a heart attack during a confrontation with the nihilists. Everything is left dangling with the random speech by the “Lone Cowboy” telling the audience “the Dude abides.”
This crazy plot might not seem to have much Film Noir flavor on the surface however, when looking at the overall structure of the film the classic clichés can be found. But what exactly is Film Noir? Briefly put it is …a type of American film, usually in the detective or thriller genres, with low-key lighting and a somber mood (Bordwell 478). Along with it is “a genre identified by a variety of stylistic conventions: unsettling or otherwise odd camera angles, the dramatic use of shadow and light, hard-boiled dialogue, settings that emphasize isolation and loneliness” (Conard 41). However, the biggest things that make The Big Lebowski a Noir film is the plot and setting.
The Big Lebowski represents a direct repurposing of the elements of noir. It fully represents all of the major elements of Film Noir. Starting with the city setting. Noir settings are almost always in cities, at night, and with a heavy down pour of rain. The Big Lebowski uses the Los Angeles city setting, and even uncovers a fair amount of corruption, but this city is bright, well lit, filled with pools and neon. There is a nod towards the use of mirrors to distort the image, or only provide reflections instead of a straightforward character in the well-known TIME picture. This time instead of showing the distorted nature of a character the mirror suggests an...

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