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The Long Goodbye

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Leigh Brackett – who wrote many of Howard Hawks’ best movies, including The Big Sleep – adapted Chandler’s most ambitious novel for director Robert Altman, updating the story to contemporary (1973) Los Angeles. As played by Elliott Gould, brilliantly, Philip Marlowe emerges as a shambling anachronism, whose apologetic catchphrase, “It’s okay with me”, is the very opposite of what he means. It’s another movie – like Altman’s near contemporaraneous western, McCabe & Mrs Miller – in conversation with Hollywood of yore, reflecting a decidedly jaundiced view of the present. “A satire in melancholy,” Altman called it.

Look for an uncredited cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the hoods, and listen out for composer John Williams’ endless variations on the theme tune, it’s one of the most remarkable scores in his illustrious career.

Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs Miller and Nashville also feature in Ragged Glory: Summer in the 70s.

For more films in our Crime Scenes sidebar, look out for Chinatown, The Parallax View, Night Moves, The Late Show and Mikey and Nicky, Thursday nights through the summer.

As played by Elliott Gould, Marlowe is a quizzical, self-mocking figure, constantly commenting on the world and his anachronistic presence in it. Indeed, everyone seems trapped in a vacuum of nostalgia and allusions to the past, especially Hollywood’s. Superbly photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond in a desaturated colour that echoes a bygone age, The Long Goodbye is an elegant, chilly, deliberately heartless movie. A masterpiece of sorts, it digs beneath the surface of the supposedly liberated spirit of the times to expose the ethos that took America into the Vietnam war and produced Watergate. In pushing the cynical idealist Marlowe over the edge it ends up true to the spirit of Chandler.

Philip French, The Observer

Altman’s heady, whirling sideshow of a movie… Altman tells a detective story all right, but he does it through a spree—a highflying rap on Chandler and L.A. and the movies. Altman gracefully kisses off the private-eye form in soft, mellow color and volatile images; the cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond is responsible for the offhand visual pyrotechnics (the imagery has great vitality). Gould gives a loose and woolly, strikingly original performance.

Pauline Kael, New Yorker

Altman’s languid, free-form version of Raymond Chandler’s last great novel relocates th e1953 story to 1973, subtly critiquing the out-of-time values of Philip Marlowe…. Altman makes sure a lot of the vital action happens almost unnoticed in the corners of the frame and loves highlighting tiny moments of visual and aural impact in a sun-struck tapestry of Los Angeles sleaze.

Kim Newman, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

July 28 Only: Introduction from filmmaker Kevin Eastwood (British Columbia: An Untold History)

Director

Robert Altman

Cast

Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Credits
Country of Origin

USA

Year

1973

Language

English

19+
112 min

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Credits

Producer

Jerry Bick

Screenwriter

Leigh Brackett

Cinematography

Vilmos Zsigmond

Editor

Lou Lombardo

Original Music

John Williams

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