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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
When the cat won't eat, the position of the cat and food dish change. 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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The first time I saw this movie was back in the seventies and this was the film that won me over to Robert Altman's great works in the American cinema.
Granted, at the time of the movie's release Raymond Chandler purists naturally didn't appreciate the transformation his knight errant private eye underwent. But nowadays, the viewer must see the film for its great direction, terrific performances, Leigh Brackett's excellent screenplay and the fine cinematography. Not to mention simply the challenge of understanding a truly baffling plot. As in all of Altman's works, this one is peppered with offbeat characters and subtle (and some not-so subtle) situations that positively take you by surprise. As a maverick figure in Hollywood, Altman made sure "iconoclast" was stamped all over this film, it's a true nose-thumbing at every institution that Hollywood reveres; idealistic movie heroes, neat happy-ever-after endings, big budget spectacles, dependable money-making conventions and all around ass-kissing.
But the real treat here is, of course, Elliott Gould, and I don't believe that it's the best thing he's ever done on screen, as many think. He's certainly turned out even better performances than this one throughout the past 3 decades. But yet, in The Long Goodbye, Gould is just so much fun to watch, especially when he's being interrogated by the police or just muttering lines like, "He's got a girl, I got a cat" or "a melon convention" when he gives up trying to get his topless next-door neighbors' attention.
An interesting thing to note at the end of the film - we see the back shot of Marlowe walking away and that to me, was the private eye's closing shot, but then we have a front shot of Elliott Gould who begins playing his harmonica and then continues on up the road doing his little number, dancing a jig, etc. And to me that shows where Marlowe left off and where Gould takes over. So they weren't one and the same after all. Once again, a statement to those who would be too quick to take the Marlowe myth seriously.
The Long Goodbye is vintage Altman, a masterwork to be savoured forever.
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