The Long Goodbye
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Elliott Gould gives one of his best performances (Esquire) as a quirky, mischievous PhilipMarlowe in Robert Altman's fascinating and original (Newsweek) send-up of Raymond Chandler's classic detective story. Co-starring Nina Van Pallandt and Sterling Hayden and written by Leigh Brackett (The Big Sleep) The Long Goodbye is a gloriously inspired tribute to Hollywood (The Hollywood Reporter) with an ending that's as controversial as it is provocative (Los Angeles Times)! Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe (Gould) faces the most bizarre case of his life, when a friend's apparent suicide turns into a double murder involving a sexy blonde, a disturbed gangster and a suitcase full of drug money. But as Marlowe stumbles toward the truth, hesoon finds himself lost in a maze of sex and deceitonly to discover that in L.A., if love is dangerous friendship is murder.
- Radio Spots
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Good advice in my book.
A good introduction to film noir is .The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir by Foster Hirsch. Without this background, the dark images permeating this film are inexplicable, and the complexity of the plot baffles both Gould, and even an experienced noir lover like myself.
Altman has also described what he was trying to accomplish with the movie. "United Artists were promoting it as a hard boiled detective movie," he said. "It was anything but. I tried to take Raymond Chandler and do what he did. He paid no attention to his plots. He used his action as an excuse to hang about a hundred thumbnail sketches on. That's what I tried to do. My obligation wasn't to the plot of his book, but to the spirit of his book."
Well, I'm on the fence -- is this good film noir? Is it film noir at all? And, does it capture the "spirit" of Chandler?
I'm not sure, even after watching it a second and a third time.
Robert C. Ross
Those expecting Chandler's novel should adjust their expectatons.
Shot by Vilmos Zsigmond,"The Long Goodbye" looks pretty good in its Blu-ray debut. Keep in mind that the softness evident in the image was intended. "The Long Goodbye" will never be a demo disc but it looks exactly as it was intended to look for a 1970's film. Colors, although muted, look quite nice and detail is pretty good although a bit more care in the transfer or a better source might have helped with better grain management (more consistent grain). There is also a bit of video noise in a couple of shots but, again, while this is not a perfect transfer it looks pretty decent given the source.
The audio isn't the best but, again, it's a typical Altman soup of merged voices and background sounds. The audio sounds fine if you know what to expect from Altman.
The special features are solid if not spectacular. I honestly didn't expect anything here but we get the original promotional featurette "Rip Van Marlowe" which runs 24 minutes and perfectly describes Altman's approach to the material.
Vilmos Zsigmond appears in a 14 minute interview where he discusses working with Altman, the film and his general approach to the material.
We also get a copy of the original American Cinematographer article, radio ads and the trailer.
I am a bit disappointed that we didn't get a commentary track or a new featurette on Altman and shooting the film but it's nice that we got anything for a catalog release. Kinko Lorber does a fine job with this release. "The Long Goodbye" doesn't look or sound perfect but it was never meant to. Along with the James Garner film "Marlowe", this provides an interesting modern interpretstion of Chandler's material contrasting nicely with Michael Winner remake of "The Big Sleep" (or even better the Hawks film with Boggie and Bacall)
It's updated to the then-current Seventies and, especially, gets the LA Seventies vibe exactly right. The Blu-ray is as crisp and clean as a 1973 Panavision/Technicolor film can be in digital. One or two comedy bits are questionable but overall well-acted with many familiar faces.
There is Altman's trademark moving camera and overlapping dialogue, working better than in most of his movies. The interesting use of the theme song in all its permutations (smooth jazz in the Mercedes, canned Muzak in the convenience store) is often overlooked.
There are two indelible performances--Sterling Hayden's bigger-than-life novelist, almost unique in movies (vastly different than General Ripper in Dr. Strangelove) and the film director Mark Rydell as the crimelord. I believe him to be one of the truly scary villains in movies, because of his unpredictability. And if you see him with a Coke bottle, duck!