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The Big Lebowski: Chris and KB Chat About the Film

Time for a new Dual Analysis costume review with Kristin Burke from FrockTalk, and this time we have chosen The Big Lebowski. The reviews will be posted in the next few days, but for now read the transcript from our recent chat about the film. It’s got breakfast, weightlifting pants and feminism – the lot really.

Chris Laverty (8.18 am, London time): Good evening.

Kristin Burke (12.18 am, Los Angeles time): You might love some molasses cookies right now. They are warm from the oven.

Chris: I’m eating an old banana for breakfast. I really would.

KB: Ha-ha. GROSS. Old banana.

Chris: Did you enjoy seeing The Big Lebowski again? To be honest I enjoyed it more this time round than any other. Not sure why. I was sober, so maybe that was it.

KB: I have never seen the film inebriated or on drugs, so I have no comparison. I like the film for the world it creates. Period. I know there is a drug subtext, but I think the film stands on its own merits aside from that.

Chris: I first saw the film as a student so make of that what you will. Don’t think I was high, just not exactly roadworthy. Funny, I initially forgot it was set in the early nineties. Wondered if that was because the nineties were so sartorially redundant? Apart from Saddam Hussein, there were not that many other giveaways in the movie.

KB: Well, I think that they were telling a tale from the recent past. And the early 1990s….Wow, ripe ground for LA, Kato Kaelin, etc. Perfect to introduce The Dude. Do you Brits remember Kato Kaelin?

Chris: This one doesn’t.

KB: HERE

Chris: Yep. The freaky OJ guy.

KB: Slacker, ne’er do well, hanger on. He’s kind of like the Dude only with more baggage. Kato Kaelin would have been the Dude, but contemporary.

Chris: I love that about The Dude, you can fill in your own backstory.

KB: Yes, man, I was here. Part of it. In fact, I used the weightlifting pants thing as a backstory to James Marsden in Sex Drive. It’s such a no-no here, weightlifting pants.

Chris: Those pants. God.

KB: Yeah.

Chris: I did wonder what you called them. The patterns! The cut! Ugh. Tell me though; did the Dude’s people really wear Cowichan sweaters?

KB: Yes. The Dude was, at the time, a generation older than me, but dudes of his generation (older hippies) clung to the familiar. Cowichan = familiar, and that was good. Just like the Peruvian purse or the old Mexican pyjama pants (that were also popular in the early 1990s). Lots of retro was making a resurgence.

Chris: They are getting popular again, although, as with everything else, skinny indie kids have bunged them with drainpipe jeans – at least in the UK. They command high prices in the shops and are not real ‘Cowichan’. Though I doubt The Dude’s is either.

KB: Well, HERE is the real deal. Let your readers know!

Chris: I will. By the way, just while it jumps into my head, did you notice The Dude painting his fingernails in one scene?! Did I see that right, in the bowling alley towards the end of the film?

KB: Yes, it’s like he’s painting his nails French style – the tips white.

Chris: What a great character touch, just sitting there painting his nails, happy as Larry. Made me smile.

KB: Yes, and it’s only after the worst in the story has passed. What did you think of the overall Lebowski design vibe, the divergence between the two Lebowski clans?

Chris: It was interesting that in your review you touched upon how consistent the costumes were (for Maude, Walter, even Donny). It’s almost like a uniform. You could distinguish a character by their silhouette.

KB: The costumes were uniforms to some degree. The Big Lebowski was genius in relation to the creation of characters and their environment. In the nineties we had not yet seen such an honest representation of truth on screen. It was movies like A Simple Plan (1998) and this one that broke down the barriers.

Chris: The Dude’s outfit is now a party costume, like Austin Powers or similar. Actually, fans go to conventions dressed as Jesus Quintana, too. I wonder just how much credit Mary Zophres gets for her work on The Big Lebowski? I doubt most of the people who don these costumes have ever heard of her. That’s sad.

KB: Mary Zophres has designed some of the stronger archetypes in collective memory, and yet (like most costume designers) has not had the opportunity to collect on her investment. She has influenced decades of film characters and those yet to come. Mary is more influential than she knows! She’s brilliant, and I hope that every person who dresses up like Marge Gunderson or the Soggy Bottom Boys, or Anton Chigurh for Halloween gets on their knees and worships her like they should.

Chris: Did I understand your interpretation of The Big Lebowski correctly, that the film ‘happened’, it was not a dream, but that what we saw was embellished through The Dude’s eyes?

KB: Yes, my feeling is that the film is told through Lebowski’s (the Dude’s) eyes. Not necessarily reality, but through the filter of his experience.

Chris: How do you think that impacted on the costumes? That they became ‘heightened’? Like Maude and the German nihilists?

KB: Well I think that if we talk about the film as seen though the Dude’s eyes then we agree that the archetypes are seen through his eyes alone. As such, the feminist archetype is but so imposing. When seen in a robe, it could be as though she is seen through another lens. That regards Maude, of course.

Chris: The Dude’s reaction to Maude and that fella sitting in her gallery laughing (Brit David Thewlis) is priceless. He’s acting like ‘WTF?’ Who are these people?! I did love the nihilists, too. For me their costumes (specifically in the pancake diner) were perfectly realised. Right, we should probably wrap up soon. It must be late in LA now.

And with that we wrapped things up. Clothes on Film found some proper breakfast while FrockTalk probably called it a night. Coming up soon are our respective reviews to compare and contrast. Adjust your readers accordingly.

© 2010 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.