Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Long Goodbye (1973)

Director: Robert Altman

Starring: Elliott Gould, Nina Van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Nothing says goodbye like a bullet.

Plot: 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.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Eh, maybe.

On one hand, this is not a faithful version of the Chandler novel and it's certainly a different Marlowe than what he wrote, says a buddy of mine who is familiar with the novels. But if you take that part out of the equation, then you've got a fun, if strange, modern noir, L.A. detective story. Gould is a wise ass through and through. He's pretty funny and aloof. I just don't buy that he's a successful private dick 'cause he's far too lazy. He drives a vintage 40s car. WTF? Could he pick a vehicle that stands out more? The whole idea of being a private detective is to be able to go behind the scenes and be discreet, right?

Schwarzenegger has a brief bit part as a thug/bodyguard. He's such a ham and he's so inexperienced that he looks at the camera at one point. Hilarious.

John Williams provides the score in which the main theme is heard everywhere from doorbells to a funeral dirge to a Mariachi band. Cute. I love Marlowe's next door neighbors. You can't go wrong with hot naked hippies!

And there's no fucking way I'm getting through this without mentioning the tremendous performance by Sterling Hayden. WOW! This guy's a fucking monster of an actor. I'm not surprised. I've been a huge fan of his since I was a kid watching DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) and THE KILLING (1956). He's one of the best actors of his generation. They certainly don't make them like him anymore.

The ending is considerably different than the novel and is a major point of contention with fans of Chandler. Having not read the novel, I was fine with it. It worked for me but if I had read the novels and knew the character as he originally appeared, I'd be pissed. I've only known Marlowe through the movies. If you can watch this through the eyes of a stranger to Marlowe, you'll appreciate it more. It's not a home run and you would expect more from Altman but it can be enjoyable if you let it. You'll be taken for a ride - one way or another.

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