The Note of the Coen turns 20 years old | Culture

The Note of the Coen turns 20 years old | Culture

To the sounds of the theme Tumbling Tumbleweeds, a steppe or rolling thicket crosses the desert, travels the asphalt and ends its journey on the shores of the sea on a Californian beach during the first minutes of The great Lebowski (1998) of the Coen brothers. Settling into the languid rhythm of that journey, the voice in off by Sam Elliott - perhaps the actor who, with the permission of Gene Autry, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, has best embodied the essence of cowboy- Desgrana, chewing with delight every word, its introductory text, which serves as a presentation for the unforgettable central character of the film: The Note. Defined as a man who fits perfectly in his time and place, it is obvious to all spectators that this antihero, incarnate by Jeff Bridges with a perpetual look of canábico hang, is the survivor of utopian times and has been wrecked in America. that encourages the triumph of neocon culture.

With perpetual look of canábico hang, the Note has shipwrecked in the America that encourages the triumph of the neocon culture

From the desert to the beach passing through the asphalt: in this fascinating start, the Coen convert Los Angeles into a scale reduction of the American essence. In that order of things, only one cowboy he could give voice to a kind of secular divinity in the Coenian cosmogony and only an outdated hippy as The Note could embody a kind of loss of American innocence.

Joel and Ethan Coen they came to premiere one of the biggest pieces of his career -Fargo (1996), which earned them a management award at Cannes and an Oscar for best screenplay at a gala that would also reward actress Frances McDormand- when they decided to give new life to a project they had been cherishing since the time of their radical Barton Fink (1991).

In the approach of The great Lebowski there was a lot of private joke and, in principle, everything seemed to point to the purpose of the filmmakers was to face a light comedy after a job that had required a demanding control of the tone like that Fargo in which, in fact, they erected a lasting monument to the spirit of their native Minnesota, a territory marked by the purity of heart of simple lives, completely isolated from the corrupting and chaotic winds of every cosmopolitan city.

The Coens modeled the character of The Note by recombining their memories of some eccentric figures that had crossed their path at the time they were trying to launch their first feature, Easy blood (1984). So, Jeffrey Lebowski was a sort of Frankenstein monster in which were mixed features of the film producer Jeff Dowd, who in the early seventies had militated in the ranks of the Seattle Seven; of the now university professor and exveterano of Vietnam, Peter Exline; and Malibu surfer Jim Ganzer, who had been one of the sources of inspiration for The great Wednesday (1978) by John Milius. Some details of the volcanic temperament of John Milius also served to the Coen to enrich the characterization of the impetuous and tense Walter Sobchak to which John Goodman gave life. With that set of winks and a narrative structure that mimicked the spirit of a black novel by Raymond Chandler, at the same time he transgressed it - nothing more destabilizing than placing a fumeta in the center of an intricate plot not to go-, the filmmakers built an entertainment that, as rational logic dictated, had a relatively warm first reception - the collection of the first weekend did not reach a third of its budget. Against all odds, the film would end up growing into an imposing cult phenomenon.

They modeled the character by recombining their memories of some eccentric figures that had crossed their path

In 2002, Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt, two fatal fans of the film living in Louisville, Kentucky, decided to found the Lebowski Fest, an annual festival dedicated to celebrate the growing passion for the film that, in successive years, was planted in 12 other American locations and managed to extend its networks to London.

The unconditional ones of The great Lebowski they coined their own war name - the Achievers- and enabled the Lebowski Fest to give free rein to his mythomaniac passion by releasing pulses of memorization of dialogues of the film, and competing for the best costume inspired by the delirious cast. With its idiosyncratic jargon, its emblematic spaces -especially, the bowling alley-, its dazzling soundtrack -with Bob Dylan, Yma Sumac and Esquivel forming strange dance couples- and its fetish drink -the White Russian-, The great Lebowski I had everything to inspire new cinephile rituals capable of surpassing those immortalized by The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) that, in its day, gave legitimacy to the culture of cult cinema by providing its spectators with a rite of passage that was soon to be solved in exits of the closet or in joyful discoveries of a multidirectional lubricity. But if the Coen film touched a collective nerve, its resonances had much more to do with nostalgia than with the discovery of one's sexual identity: in times of neoconservatism, The Note was erected in a kind of Messiah of unproductiveness, rescuing the memory of the counterculture with its picturesque life on the sidelines.

The founders of Lebowski Fest tried to interview the Coens for the book on the generational impact of the film they wrote together with journalists Bill Green and Ben Peskoe. Always willing not to let themselves be loved too much and to avoid all theoretical deepening about their work, the filmmakers refused. They answered, with a nod to a dialogue of the film and icy conciseness: "We have lent you the marmot. Do not squeeze it. "

It was erected as a kind of Messiah of unproductiveness, rescuing the memory of the counterculture

Some argue that without The great Lebowski I would not exist Own vice, the later novel of the elusive and invisible Thomas Pynchon who would start from a similar premise: rewrite Chandler replacing Philip Marlowe with a Brother Freak. The Doc Sportello conceived by Pynchon attended the end of the hippy utopia and the arrival of the era of fear, control and paranoia in a slightly different way from the enigmatic protagonist of the novel Zeroville by Steve Erickson, published two years before, arrived in Hollywood the same day the murders of the Manson clan took place, while the generation of the new Hollywood-precisely Milius's ... and Coppola, Ashby, Scorsese, etc.-began to show their snouts.

Thus, what at the time seemed like a minor work of the Coens is affirmed, 20 years later, as a pioneering work that intuited that the last form of a genuinely American purity - perhaps the great obsession of the filmmakers - could be an ungainly Marijuana user who, in full development of the war in Iraq, still believed that a rug is the essential element to give room to a room.


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