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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)


Robert Altman


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

Country of Origin






112 min

Book Tickets

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Jerry Bick


Leigh Brackett


Vilmos Zsigmond


Lou Lombardo

Original Music

John Williams

In the Spotlight: Crime Scenes

Mikey and Nicky

Marked for assassination, lowly gangster Mikey (John Cassavetes) calls his best friend, Nicky (Peter Falk), the only man he can trust, and they deviate around New York City all night, one step ahead of a professional hitman (Ned Beatty).

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

Taxi Driver

Scorsese's expressionist, hallucinatory rendition of an infernal New York puts us in the head of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro),"God's lonely man", an insomniac who crisscrosses the city at night and dreams of claiming something better for himself.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

The Late Show

Ira (Carney) comes out of retirement when his old partner Harry bleeds to death on his doorstep. What had he been working on? The case of a missing cat... Lily Tomlin, Harry's kooky client, joins forces to unearth the truth - and get her cat back.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Ben Gazzara is Cosmo Vitelli, proud owner of the strip joint Crazy Horse West and in every sense a showman. His fondness for gambling lands him in trouble with the mob, but they offer him an out: all he has to do is murder the eponymous Chinaman...

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

More Films in This Series

Dog Day Afternoon

Based on a true story of a New York bank robbery which turned into a hostage siege (and a media spectacle), Sidney Lumet's gripping movie showcases a bravura performance from Al Pacino as the homosexual, married, unhappy, decent, confused bank robber.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre


The biggest hit from the 70s phase of Brian De Palma's career, Carrie takes Stephen King's horror novel about a troubled telekinetic teen and weaves it into a purely cinematic rhapsody of angst and (retali-)elation, what Pauline Kael termed "a terrifyingly lyrical thriller".

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

All the President's Men

This gripping account of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's investigation into the Watergate break-in is a masterclass of cinematic craft from director Alan J Pakula (Klute; The Parallax View) and DP Gordon Willis (The Godfather).

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Phantom of the Paradise

De Palma’s delirious mash-up of Phantom of the Opera, Faust, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and 70s glam-rock is the musical/horror/comedy freak-out that Rocky Horror wanted to be.

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The Parallax View

The most lucid and ingenious, the most deeply, creepily satisfying of paranoia thrillers, Alan J. Pakula's film posits an assassination corporation. Reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) is on to Them, or so he believes…

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre


A passion project for producer-star Warren Beatty, this frothy boudoir comedy of Beverly Hills manners views its hairdresser hero's bed-hopping with a certain sadness. Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Lee Grant and Carrie Fisher come along for the ride.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre