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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: May 27, 2014

White Russians & “The Big Lebowski” screening: DudeFest at One Longfellow Square

Written by: Ray Routhier

O.K. So a movie that spawns an annual festival to celebrate its quirkiness can rightly be called a cult film. But what do you call a film that gives birth to many, competing festivals to celebrate its unique place in cinema history? A phenomenon? A lifestyle? A cultural movement?

Anyone of those might describe what’s happened to the 1998 Coen brothers film “The Big Lebowski.” But really, the vibe and passion around the film can’t be described accurately. The best way to understand is to attend a “Lebowski”-themed bash, such as the sixth annual DudeFest at One Longfellow Square in Portland on Saturday.

The event kicks off at 6:30 p.m. when the bar opens, serving the drinks the film’s characters, including the Dude himself (Jeff Bridges) like. Then at 8 p.m. there’s a screening of the film, where long-time fans can mouth along with every oddly profound line, every catch phrase. And first-timers can try to follow along to see what the fuss is all about.

The film is essentially about how the Dude is mistaken for a millionaire by some thugs who urinate on his rug. Dude enlists his bowling buddies to help him get compensated for his rug, and that’s where the craziness begins.

But fans say that the film somehow rings true, that it helps show how weird life can be.

“Real life can be very strange, so even though strange things happen in the movie, it doesn’t seem contrived,” said Matt Shipman, 38, a long-time fan. “It seems like you just caught this guy in the middle of his strange life.”

After the film, around 9:30 p.m., Shipman will lead a group of musicians calling themselves The Little Lebowski Under Achievers. They’ll give a performance of songs from the movie, ranging from well-known pop tunes like “Looking Out My Back Door” by Creedence Clearwater Revival to Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor.”

The music, Shipman stresses, is what you hear while watching the movie, not necessarily the songs picked to be on the soundtrack album. When Shipman first played DudeFest a few years ago, he and his bandmates watched the movie and wrote all the songs down.

“We even do instrumental music that you might not have noticed in the film, but we noticed it,” said Shipman.

There will also be a costume contest with a lot of folks in bathrobes, those being a fashion focal point of the film.

While One Longfellow Square has been hosting DudeFest for years, there have been other local “Lebowski”-inspired events, including a “Viva Lebowski” bowling and movie party a couple years ago. Other cities have their own fests, and then there’s the national, copyrighted “Lebowski Fest” held in Kentucky, and several large regional festivals hinged to the film as well.

DudeFest usually packs One Longfellow Square, a music venue with a capacity of about 180 people, said Margaret Logan, director of operations and marketing.

And, surprise, she says the event is probably the biggest night for the venue.

“People come in bathrobes and sandals, Viking helmets, all kinds of things,” said Logan. “It’s sheer revelry.”

DudeFest 2014

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $8 for film and live music; $5 for live music only beginning around 9:30 p.m.

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