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In the middle of the night, private eye Philip Marlowe drives his friend Terry Lennox to the Mexican border. When Marlowe returns home police are waiting for him and learns that Terry's wife Sylvia has been killed. He's arrested as an accessory but released after a few days and is told the case is closed since Terry Lennox has seemingly committed suicide in Mexico. Marlowe is visited by mobster Marty Augustine who wants to know what happened to the $350,000 Lennox was supposed to deliver for him. Meanwhile, Marlowe is hired by Eileen Wade to find her husband Roger who has a habit of disappearing when he wants to dry out but she can't find him in any any of his usual haunts. He finds him at Dr. Veringer's clinic and brings him. It soon becomes obvious to Marlowe that Terry's death, the Wades and Augustine are all somehow interconnected. Figuring out just what those connections are however will be anything but easy. Written by
It's true. You can't have mixed feelings about The Long Good-bye; you'll either love it or hate it. I started the movie with what I pretended was an open mind, but a secret hope that I'd be fully justified in hating it. In my defense, The Maltese Falcon is my favorite movie and Bogie is my favorite actor. Noir is my favorite film genre and I love Howard Hawk's The Big Sleep wihich had Bogart as the definitive Marlowe.
Altman's take on Chandler's other book with private eye Marlowe, The Long Good-bye, updates the action to the 1970's. He introduces a very 70's theme song and finds as different an actor as he can from Bogart for the role of Marlowe. From the opening frame, Elliot Gould plays Marlowe like a push-over. He's a man who constantly mutters to himself, suffers nervous tics, can't even fool his cat, is afraid of dog's and seems to be the only man not attracted to his sexy hippie neighbors despite their friendliness towards him and obvious promiscuousness.
However, Gould really creates a unique persona with the way he walks, talks, wise-cracks and operates. He becomes a believable person - which is why the uncharacteristic ending is so impacting. The photography, especially the night scenes, are beautifully filmed. The theme music plays everywhere - a Mexican funeral, a doorbell, a car radio etc and with different singers. There are other layers of flesh added to the telling that really work - like the compound security guards impressions of James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant and best of all Walter Brennan aka Stumpy from Rio Bravo.
This movie worked great for me and the plot, intricate though it was, was understandable. I will not compare this Marlowe to Bogart's, but do find it admirable that Altman just stuck to the goal of making a good movie without trying to ape or make obvious references to the noir genre.
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