The Big Lebowski Raises a Glass to Classic Film Noir
On the surface, The Big Lebowski might look like a simple stoner comedy, but with closer inspection the film possess sharp undertones of film noir. The Coen Brothers were inspired by film noir when making their movie, The Big Lebowski. Their main inspiration came from Raymond Chandler’s, The Big Sleep, with mix-match patches of other classic film noirs. The Big Lebowski is a playful, modernized, and loose form of noir film. With that said, The Big Lebowski, is a tribute to the themes of classic film noirs.
The inspiration of other classic noir films is apparent in the Big Lebowski. The Big Lebowski doesn’t only parallel The Big Sleep but other classic film noirs. For example, a classic film by Alfred Hitchcock is reflected in the themes of the movie. The beginning plot of The Big Lebowski is inspired by Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, “in which the wrong man is involved in intrigue through a case of mistaken identity and must rise to the task.”(Tyree, Walters 46) The Big Lebowski also mocks, “the technique used in Hitchcock’s film to expose impressions of previous writing on pads of paper.”(Tyree, Walters 46) This mocks Hitchcock, because what appears is not a clue but a pornographic doodle. There are patches of other films implanted in Lebowski, “like Ivan Passer’s nouveau noir Cutter’s Way (1981), in which a young, svelte, muscular Jeff Bridges plays a beach bum gigolo with an angry and abusive Vietnam vet pal.”(Tyree, Walters 47). This parallels The Big Lebowski, due to the fact that the Dude’s best friend is an angry and abusive Vietnam vet, and both protagonists are played by Jeff Bridges. Another example appears in a scene of The Maltese Falcon. In The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade the protagonist had given a drink, laced with drugs, another classic film noir device. “While discussing the falcon’s value, Spade passes out (having been drugged by Gutman and Cairo).” (Selby 8). This device is paralled in The Big Lebowski where, Treehorn serves The Dude a drugged White Russian.
The Coen brothers have attributed that The Big Lebowski is based in part on The Big Sleep, a detective novel written by Raymond Chandler and adapted to film noir. Even though on the surface they are quite different, when given a closer look the similarities become clear. The similarities begin with the setting, both take place in L.A., California. Next we must look at the resemblances between both plots. For both films, the mystery begins when the protagonist is handed a ransom note that has been sent to the millionaire patriarch. Both Films contain plot points that revolve around pornographers; Jackie Treehorn in The Big Lebowski and Arthur Geiger in The Big Sleep. The main character, the Dude, is paralleled to Philip Marlowe, because they both find themselves entangled in more corruption than what they thought. The Dude and Philip Marlowe also live by a set of morals. The Coen Brothers make another parallel explicit...