The Dude abides at Cineworld. The Coen brothers' classic comedy The Big Lebowski, now 25 years old, is back on our screens from June 14th, enveloping us once again in a tale of reefer madness replete with bowling, German nihilists, blackmailing and severed toes.
Jeff Bridges delivers his career-defining performance as Jeffrey 'The Dude' Lebowski who seeks compensation when two thugs pee on his rug. The Dude's barely-with-it best friend Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) aggravates the situation further, turning a seemingly simple story of embezzlement and kidnapping into something truly deranged.
It's the quintessential Coen brothers comedy, rammed full of memorable lines and characters played by a who's who of A-listers, including Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And, of course, the soundtrack ties the movie together in the way The Dude's rug ties his room together.
Here are the greatest soundtrack moments from The Big Lebowski.
1. 'Tumblin' Tumbleweeds'
"Way out West, there was this fella I wanna tell you about." The unmistakable honey dew vocals of Sam Elliott kick off the Coen's peerless blend of black comedy and farce, simultaneously aping the feel of both a classic Western and a hardboiled, knotty noir. (The Coens acknowledged the influence of both Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye and Raymond Chandler's crime fiction on the movie.)
The drawling vocals of Sons of the Pioneers' 'Tumblin' Tumbleweeds' accompany an image of the very same thing: sagebrush aimlessly drifting its way into central Los Angeles and perfectly encapsulating The Dude's freewheeling attitude before we've even met him. It's a masterful, offbeat and amusing piece of scene-setting, and the song re-occurs later on when Elliot's character The Stranger appears on-screen and speaks to The Dude.
2. 'The Man In Me'
Bowling is more than a sport in The Big Lebowski, it's a way of life. The fetishistic rituals of bowling are immediately and memorably set up via Roger Deakins' masterful, pastel-coloured cinematography, which adopts slo-mo and POV shots from the ball's perspective to pull us into a uniquely singular environment that's populated by all manner of eccentrics.
The use of Bob Dylan's 'The Man In Me' is the icing on the cake, a statement of intent on the part of the film's central duo, The Dude and Walter. The song is both melancholic and defiant all at once, an ode to the importance of maintaining one's singularity even if you're a dressing gown-wearing stoner or a crackpot nutcase with a fixation on the Vietnam War.
3. 'Hotel California'
The Coens have always had a masterful affinity for memorable side characters. Their Barton Fink collaborator John Turturro racks up maybe two minutes of screentime in The Big Lebowski but he makes a strong impression as the perverse and bizarre Jesus, the bowling league rival to The Dude, Walter and Donny (Steve Buscemi).
Clad in purple with his hairnet and outrageous accent, Jesus is introduced via The Gipsy Kings' exuberant cover of The Eagles' 'Hotel California'. What makes it even funnier is The Dude later confesses to hating The Eagles, even getting thrown out of a cab for his troubles.
4. 'Traffic Boom'
Noted Italian jazz composer Piero Piccioni was celebrated in his day, but he's arguably found an even bigger audience thanks to his deployment in The Big Lebowski. The Coens utilise the brassy roar of his piece 'Traffic Boom' for one of the movie's funniest and most quotable scenes, as it accompanies the fictional porn-film-within-a-film 'Logjammin'.
The movie is introduced to The Dude by Jeffrey Lebowski's (David Huddleston) artistic oddball daughter Maude (Julianne Moore). The deadpan presentation of 'Logjammin', sporting an appearance from The Dude's nihilist blackmailer Uli (Peter Stormare), is made even funnier via the over-egged energy of Piccioni's music, leading to the immortal exchange: "He fixes the cable?"/"Don't be fatuous, Jeffrey."
5. 'Lookin' Out My Back Door'
The Dude abides, and one of the reasons is his loyalty to Creedence Clearwater Revival. In fact, The Dude's tapedeck and his beloved Creedence collection somehow manage to survive the steady, ongoing destruction of his car (one of the film's greatest sight gags), and who can resist banging the roof to the band's 'Lookin' Out My Back Door'?
The sequence demonstrates Jeff Bridges' underrated facility for slapstick comedy as The Dude, distracted by the VW Beetle he thinks is stalking him, drops a joint in his lap, attempts to douse it with beer and promptly crashes his vehicle into a garbage can. It's another wonderful example of how the Coens continually pinball us from apparent normality to complete lunacy without a moment's warning.
6. 'Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In'
It's now impossible to hear Kenny Rogers' psychedelic 1967 offering without imagining Jeff Bridges' staircase gyrating, giant bowling pins or Julianne Moore wearing a makeshift Viking costume. It's one of those alchemical blends of song and visuals that takes the breath away – kudos again to Roger Deakins' remarkable lensing that takes an apparently throwaway dream sequence and transfigures it into a piece of pop art.
Indeed, this is as close as we get to seeing the inside of The Dude's perpetually addled mind. That the song hails from the character's 1960s hippy heyday is a typically acute and insightful piece of music spotting from the Coens, who've always excelled at using music to articulate the inner dialogue of their characters.
Henry Mancini's smooth-as-silk blend of voluptuous strings and saxophone (also utilised in Jonathan Glazer's tremendous Sexy Beast in 2001) perfectly encapsulates the decadence of the menacing porn mogul Jackie Treehorn (screen veteran Ben Gazzara).
Again, Treehorn only makes one visible appearance, despite always being in the background of the movie's intentionally complicated kidnapping/embezzling plotline. Nevertheless, the character's opulent Los Angeles mansion stands in direct opposition to The Dude's relatively lowly status, and Mancini's music lends a deceptively languorous bonhomie to proceedings that tell us this exchange could go either way.
8. 'Oye Como Va'
Here's a near-perfect edit cut immaculately to the rhythms of Santana's 1970 banger. The rampaging Walter, in an effort to coerce information from dead-eyed teen Larry, whose homework The Dude found in his car, decides to attack what he thinks is Larry's vehicle. The language is unprintable and the hilarity is real as John Goodman fully assays Walter's latent madness.
Only, it isn't Larry's car at all, but that of a neighbour living next door. Enraged, he then takes The Dude's abused automobile to task, leading to a flawless, Santana-scored cut to black. We then cut back to Walter and Donny eating burgers in the car with a visibly annoyed Dude driving – a perfect distillation of the Coens' flair for poker-faced madness.
Will you be spending June in the company of The Dude? If so, click the link below to get your tickets for The Big Lebowski.