— W.C.U.N — Pittsburgh!!


I'm certainly not the first to recognize the connections between the work of Raymond Chandler, specifically The Long Goodbye, and the Coen Brother's The Big Lebowski. The Coen's themselves have mentioned Raymond Chandler as an influence on their film, noting his narrative style allowed for an episodic interaction with various characters across various locations and social strata. Beyond that, the Coen's have been mum about any other influences and like most Coen films, the internet has its theories and analyses, in abundance. The best of which is Christopher Shultz's article on LitReactor that posits that while many critics draw parallels from The Big Lebowski to Chandler's The Big Sleep with the title and labyrinthine plots of both as chief indicators, the real connection is to that of Chandler's entire body of work and that thematically, The Long Goodbye is far more in line with the Dude's journey. Interestingly enough, Shultz goes on to focus almost exclusively on the book and not Robert Altman's film adaptation, which perhaps less obviously informs The Big Lebowski in ways more far-reaching than simple thematics. 

The Coen's are if nothing else, masters of intertextuality, or in creating a dialogue between their work and other works. They have yet to make a film that is not dense with intertextual relationships. Each film, especially early on in their career seemed to be primarily a slick genre exercise with a particularly great ear for the special vernacular of each. The fact, that so often their intertextual games are for . . .

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Alfredo Garcia’s head may very well be the perfect example of the MacGuffin in cinema history, the ultimate hook for character and viewer alike. This is after all not a stolen necklace, the great whatsit, Rosebud or Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase but a man’s decapitated head. At the very least it serves as one of the goriest examples of the technique while at the same time functioning as a Rosetta Stone of sorts. Al’s head perfectly embodies the castration anxiety that permeates the film while also illuminating with one grisly image Peckinpah’s allegiance with traditional masculinities will to self-destruct in the face of emasculation.


Watching this death trip for the first time, it’s easy to take it as a crude meditation on revenge and leave it at that. However, Peckinpah’s personal life (his losing battle with alcoholism and Hollywood) not to mention the unrelenting nihilism of the film complicate the matter. And when you take into account how much cont…

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