The Coen brothers love to stake out little slices of American culture to explore. They've made a musical about Depression-era Mississippi, a dark comedy about Hollywood screenwriters, and an interpretation of Job set in Jewish suburbia in 1960s Minnesota. Their (collective) ear for regional inflection is flawless, and their appreciation for absurdity is equal parts funny and ruthless. What's also true of them is that, perhaps more than any other filmmaker alive, they love film noir. From BLOOD SIMPLE to FARGO to THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, they have created many of the greatest neo-noirs of the last thirty years.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI is, in some way, their send-up of the genre. The cult sensation is a film that has transcended its status as a Coen Brothers movie. It's its own thing, but it is very much a piece of the larger Coen canvas. The brothers built A LOT of film noir subtext into the movie.
I complied as many classic noir references as I could in a new piece at Criminal Element called The Noir Geek's Guide to The Big Lebowski.