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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The way a film starts can tell you a lot about where it's going. When
Marlowe stumbles out of bed, mumbling and beholden to a mewing feline,
you know you will not witness a typical translation of Chandler's work.
I had reservations before seeing this movie the first time, worried, as
I was, that Altman, by taking liberties with the novel upon which its
based, was somehow mocking the source material. I was wrong. The Long
Goodbye isn't a loyal translation of the novel, in terms of narrative,
but it maintains the spirit, at least, and updates it for a new era.
It's as cynical as Chandler's novel, but it's a different (and,
perhaps, more justified) cynicism. If anything, Altman chose not to
mock the source so much as to mock the continuing glut of crime films
that refused to update their heroes for a post-Kennedy, post-King,
What happens when you take a retro gumshoe and drop them into the southern California of the early 1970s? They seem distinctly out of place. They don't seem to get it and, as a result, they find themselves in a lot of trouble. Marlowe, in this version of the Long Goodbye, spends much of his time as a fish out of water. He's fairly ineffective as a private detective, though he does achieve a certain amount of success finding Roger Wade and deducing what truly happened with Terry Lennox. He's stumbling in the dark for enough of the film, though, to make his successes seem the product of chance, not skill. Some may call this the inversion of the genre--I would say, however, that Altman takes a familiar genre and all its trappings but places it anachronistically in the then-present to show the failure of the genre's tropes to universally translate.
Without the Long Goodbye, would there have been a Chinatown? A Farewell My Lovely? Perhaps, but Altman's masterful rendition certainly paved the way for those arguably more successful pictures.
In addition to upsetting a genre, though, the Long Goodbye contains an amazing performance by Elliot Gould, who more or less carries the film by himself (no one else has enough screen time), as well as a marvelous turn by Sterling Hayden, who seems to channel Ernest Hemmingway and Raymond Chandler simultaneously. The other supporting roles are filled with equally effective performances. There is also the sun- drenched photography. The Long Goodbye might be a noir, but it's not particularly dark, in terms of its colors. Much of the action takes place in the daylight, which, I think, makes it all the more ominous.
All in all, this is a fantastic film and one of Altman's best.
How's this for a pitch? We want to update a Chandler classic to the early seventies and give it to Bob Altman to direct. Oh, and Elliot Gould's gonna play Marlowe. Come again? Yet it works. Boy, does it work. It's a great adaptation of the novel overlaying a mesmerizing examination of the semi-mythical world of '70s LA (it's like a feature length video for early Warren Zevon albums). Great scenes abound including Sterling Hayden on the beach at night and one of the more brutally effective moments of shock violence in movie history from (of all people) Mark Rydell. Superbly written (making you forget how Chandler's dialog richly deserved its fate of being parodied to death), and solidly acted this is, to me, the best work of Altman's storied career.
am in an Altman phase (watched both Mash and TLG tonight) and was
struck by something kinda odd about TLG.
In the movie there is one cat (marlowe's) and about thirty different dogs (including the two making sweet love...) at a certain point, i started to think that the dogs were reflective (ellie's's damn doberman, etc) and wondered if it set up a way to think about the movie-- is Marlowe the only cat in a world of dogs? Does anyone know Altman's take on dogs/cats-- in Mash Hawkeye had a dog, but the dog was not particularly important.
I know -- odd question, but it seems valid-- after all the director chooses whats on screen-- and one cat and 30 dogs cannot be an accident.
Phillip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) is a washed out private investigator in
California. One night old friend Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton) asks for a
quick ride to Tijuana. Marlowe agrees then gets caught up in a VERY
complex plot involving sexy Nina van Pallandt, alcoholic Sterling
Hayden and violent hood Mary Rydell. The plot is WAY too complicated to
Odd take by Robert Altman on Phillip Marlowe. He changes the story drastically. He moves it from the 1940s to the 1970s--yet Marlowe dresses like the 40s and even drives a 40s car. He is rumpled, mumbling and run-down here. There's a security guard who does celebrity impersonations (for no reason). Everybody talks strangely and the complex plot moves VERY quickly. It's never dull and it's beautifully directed...but I'm not quite sure what Altman's point is here. On one hand he seems to be doing a straight-forward (albeit a little strange) detective story--on the other he seems to be making fun of Marlowe and his attempts. The tone of the film wavers uncomfortably between humor, violence and satire. I'm still not quite sure how to take this.
The acting is great--Gould is just wonderful--probably his best performance ever; van Pallandt is also very good (interesting costumes--VERY 70s); Hayden yells and screams a lot; Rydell is downright terrifying as a crime lord. Since it an Altman film there's pointless female nudity (Marlowe's neighbors) and a sick scene where a Coke bottle is smashed across a woman's face. It's also highly unbelievable--no Coke bottle would break that easy.
Also David Carradine and Arnold Schwarzenegger pop up in cameos! A VERY odd movie and (understandably) a commercial failure but it's acquired a cult following. I'm not quite sure WHAT it's saying--but I liked it--sort of. I give it a 7.
With all the detective films where the lead investigator is so far
ahead of the audience he needs to explain things to the
villain/girlfriend/dopey companion just so the audience can catch up,
it's kind of a relief to see one where the P.I. is the last to know.
Such is Elliott Gould's Philip Marlowe in "The Long Goodbye."
Marlowe is the last to know when his friend Terry Lennox is accused of killing his wife and then kills himself. He is the last to know that Lennox was holding money for a dangerous hood named Marty Augustine. He does figure out pretty quickly where the drunken writer Roger Wade is holed up, but again is the last to know how Wade's story ties in with that of Lennox. Finally, at the very end, he does manage to get ahead of the audience with one sudden act few viewers could have expected, but does he succeed only in making himself a bigger loser than ever?
Robert Altman's idiosyncrasies as a director were well-established by 1973, and ill-suited for adapting one of Raymond Chandler's Marlowe mysteries. That was probably why Altman did it. Mysteries are hard enough to follow without overlapping dialogue, artfully haphazard camera framing, weird segues, and eccentric characters who have nothing to do with the main story.
Just to make things more interesting for the maverick auteur, he cast Gould, the ironic antihero of his day, in the role of the classical film-noir detective and surrounded him with non-actors like the mistress of the man who forged Howard Hughes' journals and the pitcher who scandalized baseball when he wrote "Ball Four." Casting better-known actors would have distracted people from thinking about the director.
The problem with "The Long Goodbye" is that Altman is making this film strictly for himself. Chandler fans expecting a good mystery story will be disappointed. But the movie pulls you in all the same, right from the beginning where Marlowe is woken from a deep sleep by his cat, who wants Courry brand cat food and accepts no substitutes. Marlowe has his standards, too. When he goes to the store at 3AM to buy what his cat wants, he makes sure to put on his tie first, and doesn't stop to talk to the nubile ladies who smoke pot and dance half-naked in the next apartment. When Wade tells Marlowe one morning to come have a drink with him, and "take that goddam J.C. Penney tie off," Marlowe, no morning drinker, only half-agrees: "Well, that's okay but I'm not taking off the tie."
Punchy but proud, Gould keeps his head up and makes for an engaging center in this very off-center film. His presence helps make this more of a comedy more than a mystery, though with a sinister undertow. Most memorable is a scene of sudden violence involving a Coke bottle. What's startling is not just the act itself, but the fact that the scene has been played for laughs right up to that point. More bizarre, the scene goes back to being played for laughs after the moment of violence is over.
"The Long Goodbye" may have problems as a straight screen story, but it is a stylistic triumph that influenced a lot of movies that followed, kind of a bridge between the film noir style of the 1940s and early 1950s and today's more ironic fare. For example, film noir classics like "Murder, My Sweet" (also a Marlowe mystery) took place almost always at night, so "The Long Goodbye" is drenched in sunlight and color.
Those who want a linear storyline and clear-cut characters may be better off elsewhere, but if you don't mind a bit of kookiness mixed with black humor that has significance beyond its box-office receipts, you will enjoy this.
This is a film that is persistently underrated. Chandler purists hate it
we've all seen beloved books turned into movies we feel are inadequate
because we've created our own film in our heads.
I haven't read the book and I think that this is a great film. Altman is brave enough to ignore Chandler and make his own Marlowe, assisted by the perennially underrated Elliot Gould. It's a slow and laconic film that really works.
If you loved the book then there's probably no chance that you'll love the film and that's a shame.
I don't know why people expect Altman to be any more reverential
to Raymond Chandler than he was to Raymond Carver with
Short-Cuts. But in updating both, in a kooky California kind of
way, I think he's true to the spirit of the work(s). There are
plenty of text examples of Marlowe being incredibly whimsical
and, at times, a bit of a sap (albeit a self-aware one). Altman
and Brackett have just brought that out. As for the
controversial ending - it may not have been in the book, but
it's the one moment in the film where Marlowe's "code" shines
through, where he finally says: "That's not OK with me."
Private eye Philip Marlowe (Gould) attempts to cover for his friend who
leaves a wake of trouble behind for Marlowe after he leaves the
Robert Altman's adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel spices with that noir vibe of gritty crime, a fantastic central moody protagonist and a luxury score capitalizing on the mood of the moment.
Raymond Chandler's books were big adaptations in the 1940's with hits such as the big sleep and a screenplay for Double Indemnity. A brief one year series entitled by the central character "Philip Marlowe" went unsuccessful in 1959 and ten years later "Marlowe" starring James Garner was released without much hype. 1973 and The Long Goodbye was released and fans of Chandler are praising this as the finest appreciation of the character's series.
Our first accompaniment with the detective is in his flat where he is awoken by his hungry cat. Intermixing with dialogue with the hungry pet is genius at conveying Marlowe's personality as the sarcastic and blunt persona ebbs its way into our hearts and Elliott Gould is perfectly resolute in the starring role, eclipsing everyone in his wake with his playful banter and unflinching attitude towards surroundings. It seems only his cat is smarter than he is and thanks to this basis of a care free attitude the character is approachable and exceptionally likable, and that doesn't happen in too many noir films.
Capturing the essence of noir we have the moody detective, the troubled blonde haired Nina Van Pallandt as Eileen Wade and a dark story involving murder and betrayal.
Modern crime films such as your Bonds and Bourne's revolve around a mystery and adrenaline soaked action and suspense but with indie flicks such as this 1973 release you get a feeling of relaxation in an inappropriate sense. For example everything happens in stride with a chilled attitude. There is hardly any action until the final third as everything is revealed through intelligent converse and clever actor portrayals. And with today's modern representation of gangsters wearing flashing accessories and being covered by money in films such as Be Cool it really is remarkable to see how times have changed.
In this case less action is more for the plot. As to when the big scenes arrive there is a stronger emphasis on the situation, for example the dealings with the gangsters and the groundbreaking last few minutes. Nothing is lost and everything is gained from epitome of revenge to rightful consequences and credit where credit is due for the screenwriters.
The film capitalizes on its tremendous score. Never have I watched a film involving two main themes and been convinced it is one of the finest, well in the noir/crime genre.
The scene setting escalates on the mood, the relaxing morning drinking scene by the beach is exquisite whilst the providing nature of the naked girls next door to Marlowe's adds some tasty humour which all files together to make a really tremendous film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Elliott Gould delivers a brilliantly loosey-goosey performance as a shabby, rundown, laid-back and sarcastic Philip Marlowe, who finds himself adrift and out of place in mean'n'selfish 70's Los Angeles. Marlowe investigates the apparent suicide of good buddy Terry Lennox (well essayed by former baseball player Jim Bouton). During his investigation Marlowe encounters boozy, washed-up writer Roger Wade (a beautifully touching performance by Sterling Hayden), Wade's alluring femme fatale wife Eileen (a solid portrayal by the stunningly gorgeous Nina Van Pallandt), sinister alcohol rehab clinic head Dr. Verringer (a splendidly slimy Henry Gibson), and volatile neurotic Jewish gangster Marty Augustine (a genuinely frightening turn by director Mark Rydell). Director Robert Altman, working from a wonderfully acid and ironic script by Leigh Brackett, deftly creates a morally topsy-turvy world where greed, betrayal and deception take precedent over honesty, loyalty and having a code of honor. Moreover, Altman peppers the film with a lot of nice and amusing quirky touches: numerous variations of the haunting main theme occur throughout the picture (there's even an insipid Muzak version on the PA system at an all-night supermarket!), a security guard does dead-on celebrity impressions, Marlowe keeps on nonchalantly saying "That's okay with me" at regular intervals, and Augustine breaks a Coke bottle over his lovely girlfriend's face. Vilmos Vsigmond's bright, gleaming, smoothly gliding and agile cinematography gives the film an exquisitely lustrous slick look. The lush, jazzy orchestral score by John Williams likewise totally hits the spot. Popping up in nifty bit parts are David Carradine as a spacey philosophical flake in a jail cell and Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of Augustine's goons. A real treat.
Elliot Gould must have been directed to keep lighting cigarettes or smoking them every minute he was on camera. Problem is, whether he was actually ever a smoker or not, he looks like someone faking it. His inhalations are totally unconvincing. The cigarette sticking out of his mouth as he moves about looks like one stuck in a snowman's mouth at a wrong angle. Small thing? No, once you notice it, it's maddening. Otherwise, an interesting film, although the dialog does not sound like Chandler, whether Chandler's words are used or not. Oh, one other thing: I have only seen this in a DVD, and I kept running it backwards, or pausing to get a closer look at the lady's face in the jeep in the last scene. Maybe it's the small screen, but it's almost s if I am not supposed to see her clearly.
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