72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The scattershot magic of Robert Altman
There are so many good ideas and concepts at work in this film. Here are a few:
1: In the DVD Special Features, Director Robert Altman talks about his overall concept for this film. His problem was how does a filmaker take a character that is so much from a different era and place him in modern times? Altman came up with a conceptual framework: look at the film as...
Published on December 2, 2003 by M. Dog
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better Luck Next Time, Mr. Chandler
Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye," released in 1973, based on Raymond Chandler's penultimate novel, is generally considered a film noir classic. It follows Chandler's convoluted plot, kinda sorta, and is, of course, filmed in color: there's a school that says that movies based in Los Angeles, as this one is, may succeed as films noir despite being filmed in color...
Published on March 12, 2007 by Stephanie DePue
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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The scattershot magic of Robert Altman,
1: In the DVD Special Features, Director Robert Altman talks about his overall concept for this film. His problem was how does a filmaker take a character that is so much from a different era and place him in modern times? Altman came up with a conceptual framework: look at the film as though Philip Marlowe, Chandler's ace detective from the 1940's, has been sleeping for thirty years and wakes up in the 1970's. Altman called it his "Rip Van Marlowe" concept. He thought of the film this way because he wanted to place the classic 1940 Marlowe sense of integrity and ethical code in the free-wheeling Seventies. This idea is ingenious and fits Eliott Gould's hip but outsider acting style to a tee.
2: Altman keeps the camera moving at all times. The lens does not jerk around in a mise en scene way, but more with long, smooth tracking and pan shots. This gives the movie a great feeling of constant action and forward movement, even when folks are just talking. The camera movement is done in such a smooth way, it seems very natural - as if you, the viewer, were really watching the action and simply turning your head to follow the flow of life.
3: The movie theme song is beautiful and was written by Johnny Mercer. It has a classic feel, and it dominates the sound of the film. Altman has put this haunting melody everywhere; in the sound of a doorbell, in the tune played in a Mexican funeral, in songs that come over half-heard radios - everywhere. It is the song the small time lounge piano player is trying to learn in the background of one scene, and it is the song that you will find yourself humming once the film is over. All this is almost done on a subliminal level, and it is brilliant.
4: The casting is tremendous and original. Elliott Guild is perfect as the man that seems out of place and almost lackadaisical on the surface, yet has a steel hard code of ethics that he lives by even - especially when - no one else does. Jim Bouton, the ex baseball star and writer of Foul Ball, is cast as Marlowe's friend, and he is a treat to watch - all smarmy smile and charm. Another Altman favorite, Henry Gibson of Laugh-In fame is around as the reptilian Dr. Verringer and Sterling Hayden booms through his tragic turn as the Hemingway-like writer Roger Wade. Everyone is very good. Watch for two cool cameos: David Carradine as a hip-talking anti-establishment inmate that Marlowe meets in a short stay in prison, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (that's right, governor Schwarzenneger) as a wordless muscle bound enforcer.
I really love this movie. As a director, Robert Altman gives actors more room than any other director in film history. He lets them, as he says in the DVD special features, "do what they became actors to do: be creative." This has its pluses and minuses, but it could, in some films, really make magic. There is a "lifelike" quality to the best of Altman's work, which is to say some of the best moviemaking ever done. I am thinking about Nashville and McCabe and Mrs. Miller, both films that linger and gain power in memory.
I will not give the end away, but it is worth waiting for and a real surprise. It is the moment in the film when the fairy-dust and dope smoke of the 70's is stripped away to reveal Gould/Marlowe's adamantine core; a center constructed around a very tight code of loyalty and integrity.
Do yourself a favor and buy it.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, Atmospheric, Unique Altman Spin to Chandler!,
Well, seeing it again, nearly 34 years later, I now realize I was totally wrong! The film is brilliant, a carefully-crafted color Noir, with Gould truly remarkable as a man of morals in a period (the 1970s) lacking morality. Perhaps it isn't Raymond Chandler, but I don't think he'd have minded Altman's 'spin', at all!
In the first sequence of the film, Marlowe's cat wakes him to be fed; out of cat food, the detective drives to an all-night grocery, only to discover the cat's favorite brand is out of stock, so he attempts to fool the cat, emptying another brand into an empty can of 'her' food. The cat isn't fooled by the deception, however, and runs away, for good...
A simple scene, one I thought was simply Altman quirkiness, in '73...but, in fact, it neatly foreshadows the major theme of the film: betrayal by a friend, and the price. As events unfold, Marlowe would uncover treachery, a multitude of lies, and self-serving, amoral characters attempting to 'fool' him...with his resolution decisive, abrupt, and totally unexpected!
The casting is first-rate. Elliott Gould, Altman's only choice as Marlowe, actually works extremely well, BECAUSE he is against 'type'. Mumbling, bemused, a cigarette eternally between his lips, he gives the detective a blue-collar integrity that plays beautifully off the snobbish Malibu 'suspects'. And what an array of characters they are! From a grandiosely 'over-the-top' alcoholic writer (Sterling Hayden, in a role intended for Dan Blocker, who passed away, before filming began), to his sophisticated, long-suffering wife (Nina Van Pallandt), to a thuggish Jewish gangster attempting to be genteel (Mark Rydell), to a smug health guru (Henry Gibson), to Marlowe's cocky childhood buddy (Jim Bouton)...everyone has an agenda, and the detective must plow through all the deception, to uncover the truth.
There are a couple of notable cameos; Arnold Schwarzenegger, in only his second film, displays his massive physique, as a silent, mustached henchman; and David Carradine plays a philosophical cellmate, after Marlowe 'cracks wise' to the cops.
The film was a failure when released; Altman blamed poor marketing, with the studio promoting it as a 'traditional' detective flick, and audiences (including me) expecting a Bogart-like Marlowe. Time has, however, allowed the movie to succeed on it's own merits, and it is, today, considered a classic.
So please give the film a second look...You may discover a new favorite, in an old film!
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great & Twisted Take On Marlowe,
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Altman genre revisonism at his most sublime,
This review is from: Long Goodbye [VHS] (VHS Tape)The Long Goodbye is vintage Altman. It ranks not only as one of his best works, but one of the best films of the 1970s. Ignore the negative comments, this is supposed to be an updating of Chandlers character Philip Marlowe to a more contemporary setting which was the whole point and Altman does it very cleverly in the most unexpected ways. Elliot Gould truly shines in his interesting interpratation of Marlowe. Seemingly lacking the confidence and self assurance of Humphrey Bogart ( "It's Okay with Me"), Gould more than makes up by proving himself with his wit which remains firmly intact from how Chandler originally envisioned the character. It is truly a brilliant, understated performance and better than Altman and Gould's previous collaboration Mash. The film has many quirky touches from Altman with a terrific supporting cast of players including Sterling Hayden, Henry Gibson, Nina Van Pallandt, Jim Bouton and director Mark Rydell. The stunning photography by Vilmos Zsigmond once again gives yet another Altman film a unique aesthetic look. It is severly diminish when cropped up in pan & scan as other reviewers have mentioned. The film begs for a proper transfer to widescreen. Let's pray MGM/ UA comes to their senses and stop releasing James Bond box sets while these masterworks continue to be neglected.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant exercise in updating "noir",
By A Customer
This review is from: Long Goodbye [VHS] (VHS Tape)When Robert Altman decided to keep Raymond Chandler's milieu (Los Angeles) but update the era from the freighted 40s and 50s to the sleazy 70s, he added a lot more than color and unkempt hair. He rethought the whole myth of the hard-boiled private eye and handed it to Elliot Gould (who never did anything finer on film). Matching him is an oddball cast prominent among which are Sterling Hayden, Nina von Pallandt, Henry Gibson, and a very suspicious cat. Scene trumps stunning scene, leading to a twist undreamed of by Chandler that is triumphantly right. (Altman may have a hidden flair for thrillers; his Gingerbread Man also worked wonders with tired material.) This is one of the key films from a decade where movies were one of the few bright spots (and dazzlingly bright they were).
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Altman,
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better Luck Next Time, Mr. Chandler,
Chandler's book was adapted for the screen by Leigh Brackett, who also did the honors for the 1946 Warner Brothers' Humphrey Bogart adaptation of the author's "The Big Sleep." Here, the action is moved from Chandler's L.A. of the 1940's to the city's 1979's, mean, drug-addled. After the murders committed by Charlie Manson's crew, and the motorcycling Hell's Angels at the Rolling Stones" Altamont concert. The city has begun to awake from its long dream of drugs, sex, and rock and roll. The film's cinematography, by the talented Hungarian refugee Vilmos Zsigmond, who also did Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," captures the look of the city frozen at that time. Harsh sun, bleached colors, threatening pastels. And Altman's camera moves constantly. The many times honored John T. Williams did the sound track, and a witty one it is, too. That theme song pops up all over the place, from supermarket Musack to Mexican, party singalong to piano jazz.
The story concerns Philip Marlowe's decision to help a friend. Marlowe, here played by Elliott Gould, helps Terry Lennox (played by Jim Bouton) to get to Mexico. Lennox will be accused of killing his wife and stealing a large sum of mob money. For his trouble, Marlowe is beaten up, and jailed for several days. Then, what is apparently another job takes him to a guarded, ritzy Malibu beach community, that is, in fact, the site of the murder of Lennox's wife. The gatekeeper does movie star impersonations, nobody is actually the person he/she presents to the world, and several residents have taken screen star type names. His clients on this job are Sterling Hayden, as an alcoholic, Hemingwayesque famous writer, Roger Wade, born Billy Joe Smith. And Nina Van Pallandt, former model, and mistress to that most famous of 1970's hoaxers, author Clifford Irving (he counterfeited a Howard Hughes autobiography). She plays Wade's downtrodden wife Eileen.
Altman was an offbeat kind of guy, and his casting of this movie is, too. Most of the lead parts are played by non-actors: Van Pallandt; Jim Bouton, former New York Yankees star pitcher as Lennox, born Lenny Potts; Mark Rydell, producer-director, as psychotic gangster-gambler Marty Augustine. Henry Gibson,stand-up comic from Rowan and Martin's television show "Laugh In," as the oily Dr.Verringer. Arnold Schwarzenegger, bodybuilder then, in an unbilled, hardly speaking part. These people evidently do as they were directed to do, and deliver their lines, as does David Carradine in a bit, unbilled part as Marlowe's jail roommate. But the leads, Elliott Gould and Sterling Hayden, must have been encouraged to improvise. They talk constantly, and, in the Altman way, frequently at cross-purposes, to deliver what must surely have been the least disciplined performances of their careers.
Frankly, to watch the film again after a hiatus of several years, you can't help noticing that it's virtually two hours long. And that these self-indulgent, undisciplined performances are annoying and tedious, two things a movie of a Raymond Chandler novel should never be. Well, many Chandler books have been filmed more than once, so, with regrets, here's hoping Chandler has better luck next time.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Film Noir and Philip Marlowe. Out of time, out of touch, out of place.,
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The first thing I recall is that in spite of the fact that this may be Elliot Gould's best performance outside of the film M*A*S*H, I think the stars of the film are director Altman, cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond, screenwriter, Leigh Brackett, (relatively unknown at the time) composer John Williams, and a strong nod to the presence of actor Sterling Hayden. They all contribute to the image of a character from New York City the '40s transplanted to Malibu in the '70s. Gould's Philip Marlowe is the film noir gumshoe, but he lacks all the panache of the famous earlier actors who filled that role such as Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum. He has certain skills, but none of the clever competence of the greatest of film noir detectives, Jake Giddes in "Chinatown", who has a nose for incongruities and the talent to hunt them down. Gould's Marlowe seems buffeted about by both the police (with whom Giddes has a respectable relation), who also seem to be caught in Brackett's time warp (no cool Joe Fridays here)and the hoods, lead by a gangster, Marty Augustine, who does seem to have made the transition from 40s hood to 70s wise guy. Situations with both get resolved behind Marlowe's back, and Marlowe has no clue to how that happened.
Although Altman may not do it quite as often as Woody Allen, I suspect in this movie he was intentionally copying some of the conventions of "film noir", and making fun of them just a bit. Almost all the interesting stuff seems to happen at night, or in closed rooms where you can't see the daylight. The song, credited to John Williams, sounds just like something which may have been written for an early John Houston film or the film "Laura" which had a famous theme covered by lots of major jazz performers. It seems so utterly not California for Gould's Marlowe to always wear a suit jacket and tie, when all the other characters are dressed as you would expect in 1970s LA. Just as the ending to "Chinatown" is a surprise which I never saw coming, the end to "The Long Goodbye" succeeds in the same way.
What seems so puzzling is that there are three different plot lines early in the movie, all of which are connected by nothing except the common location, a gated, exclusive colony of residences on the beach in Malibu. The three plots seem to have nothing connecting them until the last 15 minutes. One benefit of this disconnect is that we can appreciate the role of Sterling Hayden, who, I am convinced, is patterned after the last years of Earnest Hemingway. This and his appearance in "Dr. Strangelove" may be his two most memorable film appearances. However, his appearance here is a nice reminder that Hayden began his career in some notable film noir classics such as "The Asphalt Jungle".
The showpiece of Gould's performance is the first 10 minutes, where he is virtually the only speaking character, who does a monologue for the benefit of his cat. Here is were all his anomalies begin, as he puts on a tie to go out to a 24 hour supermarket to buy cat food at 3 AM.
According to Wikipedia, the film was not well received at first, but, as I said at the outset, I was immediately impressed by it when I saw it in the theatre. It has one of the prime qualities of a film worth buying. It is rewatchable, maybe once a year or so. The next time I watch it, I would be especially attentive to whether there are early clues which tie the three plot lines together.
By the way, even though his role is uncredited, you can't miss Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the gangster's "muscle". David Carradine also has an uncredited role, but he is less easy to spot.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Original and Darkly Ironic Take on Chandler,
Of course it's about Marlow, a LA private i. who is woken up one night by his old friend Terry Lennox who asks for a lift to Mexico. Marlow complies only to be hauled over the coals by the cops the next day when it turns out Lennox's wife has been murdered. Now Marlow is resolved to prove his friend is innocent... Meanwhile he gets a call from Nina van Pallandt's Ellen Wade who wants him to find her stray husband Roger (Sterling Hayden) and it seems they knew the Lennoxes. Meanwhile too, the psychopathic hoodlum Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell) is squeezing Marlow for the money Lennox owed him... Then the plot thickens. Enough said.
The use of music is rather distinctive and contributes quite a lot to the film's unique feel. There's a slow, jazzy theme song and, much if not all the time, it's the only music we hear. It's not just used as incidental music but dominates the sound environment of the action. When Marlow goes to a bar, it is being played on the piano. When Augustine's girlfriend is waiting for him in his car, she puts the radio on and there it is. And - I liked this touch - when Marlow is in Mexico trying to track Lennox down, we hear it played by the band of a passing funeral...
The acting is excellent. It's the definitive Elliot Gould movie certainly. Sterling Hayden is gloriously on form as huge drunk Roger Wade and Henry Gibson does a brilliantly job in the minor role of a sinister shady doctor exploiting Wade's alcoholism. It is of course beautifully directed and, characteristically for Altman, both very dark and very witty. The mixture of moods is brilliantly handled, from the opening scene, a classic example of Altmanesque comic aimlessness where Marlow goes shopping for the only brand of cat food acceptable to his very fussy pet, stopping to pick up brownie mix for the stoned out hippies next door; to, half an hour later, what, to give nothing away, one might call the Coke Bottle Scene, one of the most explosive and disturbing moments of violence in any movie; to the painfully uncomfortable scene where Wade is confronted by Gibson's nasty Dr Verringer at a beach party; to the devastatingly dark and ironic ending. Enormously worthwhile and utterly unlike any other Chandler adaptation you will ever see, the film is one of Altman's best which is saying a lot. Watch it but, for maximal benefit, it's a particularly good idea to have read the book first.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired Orchestration of Talent,
The plot has been done 100,000 times -- cheap detective and unsolved crime, beautiful woman as alluring foil, and a host of red herrings, weirdos, suspects, crazies, all keeping you on edge until last cut. And sure, Bogart nailed this particular character memorably in the author's own time, in a manner which could only have been done then. But neither the text nor character are sancrosanct. They were good available fodder to launch something more.
That something more is an extraordinary actuality, a gritty realism that captures BOTH southern California and the 1970s -- a time and a place -- as nothing else on record. Watching the movie is uncanny, like entering a dream or a time warp. It reminds you of the possibilities of cinema that still, with the art form not yet a century old, remain to be explored. The wayward Gould is perfect, and he is perfectly used. The great and under-rated Sterling Hayden delivers a vastly haunting performance, as a man from a whole other American time and place -- just as real as the one on camera but already gone -- leaving him a quite menacing fish out of water. The music -- a lovely but endlessly repeated strain, finally becomes as stultifyingly hypnotizing as a mantra from the far east. That plus a surrealistic camera drench you in the great big NOW -- yet combine to give the movie the patina of timelessness. All the characters are caught in this gauzy vision as if in amber, specimens ever freshly packaged and delivered to us in all the weirdness and eccentricity of their time and place. And finally, the master's touch -- using two non-actors for the key noir roles -- "disgraced" (just disgracefully honest, really) baseball pitcher turned author Jim Bouten as the baddie, and the mistress of then headlines maker Clifford Irving (forger of the notorious fake Howard Hughes autobiography) as the femme fatale. It is as if Altman lifts these two, in the cucoons of their media noteriety of the day, and finds matching fictive wrappings to transport their enigmas fully intact to us and the unknown future. That effect is incredible enough, but the undertow is how it ups the ante for what the seemingly hapless Gould character must do -- in his own way ripped out of time and place and thrown helpless into a strange and terrifying world. You certainly wouldn't figure he would prevail.
Altman's unique gift is to orchestrate the talent, set all the balls in motion, then get out of the way, let others run downfield with his inspirations. Far from being the sort of controlling director as Kubrick or Orson Welles, or for that matter Kurosawa or Bergman, Altman is true successor to the mantle of Nicholas Ray, maker of Rebel Without a Cause. His enterprise exudes a democratic American confidence, but not shouting at you, either. This film ranks as twin peak to his Nashville, his other best work. All that, and the film is also funny as hell. And finally more grimly serious than any classic noir, as all moves to convulsive and unexpected conclusion. The difference from ordinary noir is that this take on the genre is not stylized. It takes the plum out of the pulp fiction, so to speak, treats that little germ of truth in Raymond Chandler's noir world as seriously as any big truth in serious literature, something to be fully explored, developed, reckoned with. When Marlowe walks away at the end he's no longer Marlowe, he's somebody you never met and hope you never do, a terrifying moment of revelation.
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Long Goodbye [VHS] by Robert Altman (VHS Tape - 1998)