Blu-ray: "The Big Lebowski: Limited Edition" Abides
The Coen cult classic debuts on Blu and it, you know, like, looks great, man
Rolling Stone once called it "the most worshipped comedy of its generation." I like to think of it the Book of Duderonomy, the lost gospel of the post-modern Testament. Now the beloved Coen classic of easy living and competitive bowling on the absurdist mean street of Los Angeles arrives on Blu-ray. Presenting "The Big Lebowski: Limited Edition" (Universal). You'll like its style, man.
Jeff Bridges is brilliant as the Dude, one of the most strangely centered individuals in the movies. This bowler/stoner/free spirit is mistaken for a millionaire (David Huddleston) by a band of German punk nihilists, and John Goodman is his Vietnam Vet bowling buddy, who sinks him deeper into trouble with one testosterone-and-righteous-indignation-fueled scheme after another. Think of it as a slacker "The Big Sleep," a shaggy dog parody of classic L.A. detective stories where the passive hero is threatened, confronted, assaulted, seduced, drugged and so completely bummed out that he's forced to solve a mystery so everyone will just leave him alone to enjoy his dope and his Dylan.
The Coens concoct an absurdist Chandler-esque mystery, drop in a couple hilarious dream fantasies (including a bowling dream sequence by way of Busby Berkley, complete with credits), and even bring in a drawling Sam Elliot to narrate this tall tale like a western myth. Julianne Moore co-stars as an avant-garde artist turned Valkyrie fantasy, and Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ben Gazzara co-star.
It's not the most successful, famous or critically acclaimed film by the Coen Bros., but it surely has the most dedicated fan base. In fact, the Blu-ray was launched at Lebowskifest 2011, complete with a cast reunion and an audience Q&A.
You can get a brief glimpse of highlights from the evening after the jump. The complete cast reunion Q&A -- a very groovy event with Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro and "music archivist" T-Bone Burnett -- can be viewed via Livestream on the movie's official Facebook page. See Jeff Bridges lead the audience in a chant, hear John Turturro describe his idea for a sequel starring The Jesus (it's called, of course, "The Second Coming") and enjoy the group answering questions they can barely hear due to screwy stage acoustics. But you'll need to hurry -- it will only be up for a week.
This release has been a long time coming. The old DVD edition was easily one of the most poorly-mastered modern classics to come out from a major studio. Even the 2008 "Tenth Anniversary Edition" looks awfully lo-fi on high-definition monitors, with an overabundance of grain and video noise.
This has been freshly mastered in 1080p for the Blu-ray debut and the color and clarity and distinctive palette of the Roger Deakins cinematography can finally be fully appreciated. Also features a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack which, while not muscular the way action films are, is nicely sculpted. And it's packaged in a Limited Edition Blu-ray Book with stills, quotes from the movie, an interview with Jeff Dowd (the real Dude) and other bits of memorabilia. And yes, that book really ties the disc together.
The supplements are mostly repurposed from the earlier DVD releases, with a few interactive Blu-ray exclusives tossed in. New to this edition is the interactive trivia game "What's My Line" (to be played while watching the film: it freezes and you have to guess the next line) and a couple of other interactive modes. "Scene Companion" offers pop-up quotes and actor bios (read aloud by an anonymous narrator), "Mark It, Dude" is a running counter for Lebowski-isms and other references, and "The Music of The Big Lebowski" accesses pop-up info on the songs of the film.
The most substantial extras are from the earlier DVD releases, many of them presented in standard definition. The 28-minute "The Making of The Big Lebowski" features interviews with the Coen Brothers, Bridges, Goodman and other members of the cast. "The Dude's Life" and "The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later" are a match set of retrospective featurettes with most of the major cast members (but not the Coens) looking back at the film and their part in the production, and it's both smoother and livelier than the "Making of" production. There's also a short portrait of the annual Lebowski Festival, a short piece on the film's dream sequences, Jeff Bridges’ photos from the set, an interactive map and other supplements.
In a phrase, "The Big Lebowski: Limited Edition" abides on home video.