Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading

 

Although every Coen Broth­ers film is unmis­tak­ably theirs alone (can the Auteur The­o­ry apply to more than one per­son at once?), Joel and Ethan have a rep­u­ta­tion for rarely mak­ing the films audi­ences want or expect from them at any giv­en time. After Far­go, when every­body want­ed anoth­er snowy mid­west­ern noir, Joel and Ethan gave the world The Big Lebows­ki instead (read The Dork Report Review). After a recent string of genre exper­i­ments like the Hep­burn & Tra­cy-esque roman­tic com­e­dy Intol­er­a­ble Cru­el­ty and a remake of Eal­ing com­e­dy The Ladykillers, the Coens sur­prised every­body yet again with the dead-seri­ous nail­biter No Coun­try for Old Men. And, per­haps because they just can’t help them­selves, they give us whiplash all over again with Burn After Read­ing.

George Clooney and Francis McDormand in Burn After ReadingClooney and McDor­mand give this movie two thumbs up

Osten­si­bly anoth­er caper com­e­dy like The Big Lebowsi, Burn After Read­ing is actu­al­ly more amus­ing than hilar­i­ous. The char­ac­ters are a pecu­liar kind of stu­pid com­mon in Coen films: unaware of their lim­i­ta­tions, yet mani­a­cal­ly dri­ven. But the mis­chie­vous Coens under­mine the light enter­tain­ment val­ue of the film by punc­tu­at­ing the con­vo­lut­ed noirish plot and seem­ing­ly light tone with scenes of extreme vio­lence.

Burn After ReadingJohn Mal­covich being John Mal­covich

At the time, The Big Lebows­ki fea­tured many of the Coens’ reper­to­ry play­ers (John Good­man, Steve Busce­mi, John Tur­tur­ro). In con­trast, Burn After Read­ing sports the mar­quee names Clooney and Pitt, per­haps giv­ing it more atten­tion than it can hold. But its biggest hin­drance to join­ing the ranks of the best of the Coen Broth­ers is that it lacks a high­ly mem­o­rable (and quotable) char­ac­ter like H.I, Marge, or The Dude.

Burn After ReadingBrad Pitt is in pos­ses­sion of, as they say in movies like this, cer­tain doc­u­ments

Offi­cial movie site: www.burnafterreading.com

The Big Lebowski

big_lebowski.jpg

 

In 1998, when all the world want­ed from Joel Coen and Ethan Coen was anoth­er Far­go, they got The Big Lebows­ki instead. The Coens recent­ly repeat­ed this trick by fol­low­ing up anoth­er mas­ter­piece, No Coun­try for Old Men, with the hap­py-go-lucky Burn After Read­ing. The Dork Report won­ders if this com­pul­sion is by design or if the Coens just can’t help them­selves.

Viewed with some puz­zle­ment upon release, The Big Lebows­ki is now the sub­ject of pop art, annu­al con­ven­tions, and action fig­ures. The far­ci­cal film noir is ulti­mate­ly an extend­ed “wrong man accused” pas­tiche in the spir­it of Alfred Hitch­cock and Ray­mond Chan­dler, but The Coen Broth­ers infuse it with their trade­mark anar­chic spir­it and pop­u­late it with char­ac­ters with low (or oth­er­wise chem­i­cal­ly impaired) I.Q.

big_lebowski1.jpgWe don’t roll on Shab­bos

The film’s 10th anniver­sary was recent­ly cel­e­brat­ed in a Rolling Stone fea­ture arti­cle, The Decade of the Dude by Andy Greene. John Good­man, Julianne Moore, Steve Busce­mi, and Sam Elliott reveal a wealth of anec­dotes and all seem gen­uine­ly delight­ed at the film’s cult sta­tus. Good­man, how­ev­er, alludes to hav­ing had a kind of falling out with the Coens after Oh Broth­er Where Art Thou. The arti­cle also states that The Coen Broth­ers decline to dis­cuss the The Big Lebows­ki at all any­more, for unspec­i­fied rea­sons. How­ev­er, the DVD edi­tion screened by The Dork Report includes the orig­i­nal 1998 con­tem­po­rary elec­tron­ic press kit includ­ing an inter­view with the Coen Broth­ers in which they game­ly dis­cuss the pro­duc­tion (Joel is cred­it­ed as direc­tor and Ethan as writer, but in truth they have always shared the duties equal­ly). The DVD also pro­vides a peek at cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er Roger Deakins’ spec­tac­u­lar fan­ta­sy sequences and unique bowl­ing footage actu­al­ized with a motor­ized cam­era capa­ble of run­ning up to 20 M.P.H.

Jeff Bridges reveals the extent of his actor­ly craft in prepar­ing for each scene: he would sim­ply ask The Coens, “Did the Dude burn one on the way over?” Most often, the answer was yes, so he would rub his eyes to approx­i­mate the degree of red­ness appro­pri­ate, and pro­ceed. The Dude copes with the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of life with the mot­to “The Dude abides,” but the cir­cum­stances in which he finds him­self dur­ing this mis­ad­ven­ture leave him less in a state of zen than one of para­noia. No doubt a life­time of pot abuse has harshed his mel­low some­what.

big_lebowski2.jpgYou don’t &$%# with the Jesus!

Despite hav­ing only bare­ly more than a cameo appear­ance, John Tur­tur­ro near­ly steals the movie with the unfor­get­table char­ac­ter Jesus Quin­tana (that’s “Jesus” with a hard “J”), a sex­u­al preda­tor and cock­sure bowler. The Coens speak about want­i­ng to write a Lati­no char­ac­ter for Tur­tur­ro, but where did the rest of his out­ra­geous char­ac­ter­i­za­tion come from? Did they just wind Tur­tur­ro up and let him go? Oth­er notable cameos include David Thewlis (Naked, Har­ry Pot­ter) as a gig­gling asso­ciate of Maude (Moore), and musi­cians Aimee Mann and Flea as hap­less nihilists.


Offi­cial movie site: www.biglebowskidvd.com

Buy the DVD from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report.