Two convicts break out of Mississippi State Penitentiary in 1936 to join a third on a long spree of bank robbing, their special talent and claim to fame. The youngest of the three falls in ... See full summary »
A down on his luck gambler links up with free spirit Elliot Gould at first to have some fun on, but then gets into debt when Gould takes an unscheduled trip to Tijuana. As a final act of ... See full summary »
A syndicate wants to buy a whole district to rebuild it. They've bought every house except the small gym "Olympic", where Mr. Austria Joe Santo prepares for the Mr. Universum championships ... See full summary »
Handsome Stranger has agreed to escort Charming Jones to collect her inheritance from her father. But Avery Jones wants the money, and hires notorious outlaw Cactus Jack to ambush Charming.... See full summary »
Chain-smoking, wisecracking private eye Philip Marlowe drives a buddy from LA to the Tijuana border and returns home to an apartment full of cops who arrest him for abetting the murder of his friend's wife. After Marlowe's release, following the reported suicide in Mexico of his friend, a beautiful woman hires him to locate her alcoholic and mercurial husband. Then, a hoodlum and his muscle visit to tell Marlowe that he owes $350,000, mob money the dead friend took to Mexico. Marlowe tails the hood, who goes to the house of the woman with the temperamental husband. As Marlowe pulls these threads together, his values emerge from beneath the cavalier wisecracking. Written by
The ink handprints include the palm of Marlowe's hand, but it did not appear that the palm of his hand was on the ink pad. See more »
Listen - what are you here for, Marlowe?
[smearing fingerprint ink under his eyes]
Well I'm here 'cause I'm gettin' ready for the big game Saturday. You know, we're playing Notre Dame and I hope I catch a touchdown pass.
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A neo-noir haiku for a crumbling 70's Los Angeles.
Much like the 30's hard-bop jazz music that opens the movie, The Long Goodbye appears on the surface to take its cue from classic film-noir. No surprise here, it IS based after all on the Raymond Chandler novel by the same name, Chandler as iconic a figure in the noir realm as you're likely to get and responsible for some of the most distinctly classic moments of the genre (Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, also Strangers on a Train for Hitchcock). But instead of rehashing styles and themes from a bygone era of film-making, slaving them in the service of a hip or serviceable crime flick that passes the time, Altman instead takes Chandler's film-noir exoskeleton, strips it of all fat and hangs on it his own unique take.
Elliot Gould is Phillip Marlowe. Scruffy, sardonic and alienated private dick with a smart mouth and a cigarette eternally glued to his lips. He's cool alright but not the suave kind of cool that would impress dames in the 40's. He seems constantly out of place, doomed to observe and comment in his witty repartee on what's going on around him or just let the chips fall where they may. And they do.
Chandler's story is as good as one would expect from such a patriarch of hardboiled hijinks and the screenplay matches it every step of the way. All the staples of a noir film are present, simultaneously fulfilling the genre promise of a Phillip Marlowe film and in the same time preparing the ground for Altman's take on it; murder, missing money, unhappy marriages, a private eye hired to investigate, twists and turns. The works. Sprawling and convoluted like the best of noirs usually are. The dialogue crackling with inventiveness, shedding toughguy lingo for a sense of playfulness, rolling in and out of the picture in a stream-of-consciousness way.
Some of the twists and characters seem to carry a sense of seething malice, a fleeting glimpse on the seemy underbelly of the Great American Beast, the scars and ugliness of Hollywood showing behind a faded facade of glamour, an escalating creepiness factor that recalls the later works of David Lynch, predating him by a good number of years as it does. The mousey Dr. Verringe and the whole clinic subplot reminded me of Lost Highway for example.
What really elevates The Long Goodbye in another level is Altman's direction and Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography. This is only my second Altman picture (after the very good McCabe and Mrs. Miller) but 2 hours in his presence were enough to leave an indelible sense that I'm watching the work of a director on top of his craft. Altman's camera is always on the move, slowly panning and zooming in and out of the frame, picking up details, guiding the eye but never getting in the middle of the story or screaming for attention. The whole thing has a naturalistic, subdued feel to it, what with the unobtrusive lighting and bleached-out, hazy look; no glitz or glamour here. Only the faded, long-gone impression of it.
The Long Goodbye is both a fantastic and somewhat hidden gem of 70's crime cinema and also one of the missing links in the evolution of noir, all the way from Sunset Blvd. to Mullholland Drive. Strongly recommended.
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