The Thief of Bagdad 1940 film produced by Alexander Korda and directed by Michael Powell ends with Abu flying on his flying carpet into the rest of his life. When I saw that scene my thoughts returned to The Big Lebowski. The way the carpet was framed suggested the Dude’s rug to me, the one that tied the whole room together and eventually connects him to the other Lebowski’s estate. I think the fringes are different and also the pattern, but the frame indicates that the Coen brothers quoted the passage.
I googled “Coen Brothers Thief of Bagdad” and found that the Coen brothers acknowledge their debt to the 1940 Thief of Bagdad film in the following excerpt from the 1998 book, The Making of the Big Lebowski by Tricia Cooke and William Preston Robertson:
‘But it’s also very fun to do. Again, it’s dovetailing things,’ he says, harking back to their technique of juxtaposing interesting but disparate elements. ‘You know, the character’s a pothead. He’s flying. The rug tying the room together The whole flying carpet, Thief of Baghdad thing.’
I’ve been thinking that the character development echoes archetypes inherent in the tales as well. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character is the quintessential vizier to Jeffrey Lebowski, doubled by John Goodman’s character as the Dude’s (Jeff Bridges) vizier. Julianne Moore’s character, Jeff Lebowski’s daughter, suggests a supernatural ifrit, as she makes her entrance flying through the air as a nude goddess and artist in her unique sphere of existence. John Tuturro’s character has a bullying stature that evokes Conrad Veidt’s Jaffar from the Thief of Bagdad. The Russian group may be right out of the 40 thieves tale. Of course, this line of thought is speculative. Still, without the opportunity to study with this class, I could not continue to pursue this kind of reasoning, and look forward to studying with you tomorrow and in our few remaining classes.
Wishing everyone a Thanksgiving (or Thanksgivikkah) of abundance, gratitude, inspiration and light! B!
- The Coen Brothers on life (dallasindiefilm.org)