****/**** Image C+ Sound A Extras B
starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi
screenplay by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
directed by Joel Coen
by Walter Chaw I think that once the book closes on the Coen Brothers, they'll be seen as the premier interpreters of our time: the best literary critics; the Mark Twains. I used to believe they were simply genre tourists on this mission to do one for every genre, but it becomes apparent with each new No Country for Old Men and True Grit unlocking each vintage Miller's Crossing and The Hudsucker Proxy that they were interpreting genres long before they took on specific pieces as a whole. Coming full-circle from the wry noir of Blood Simple and Fargo and presenting itself eventually as of a piece with a later Coen noir, The Man Who Wasn't There (just as A Serious Man is a companion piece to Barton Fink), The Big Lebowski serves as the transition point in that process while also moving the brothers from broad genre takedowns to a very specific kind of literary adaptation. That they would follow it up with O Brother, Where Art Thou?, their take on The Odyssey, speaks to a mission statement of sorts: like it, The Big Lebowski is a distillation of a classic piece of literature (Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep) that completely understands its simultaneous responsibility to its own medium and to its source material. It's not as easy as it sounds.