Moviedrome Redux: ‘The Long Goodbye’ (1973)

❉ We revive the spirit of BBC2’s ‘Moviedrome’. This week: Robert Altman’s updated version of one of Raymond Chandler’s most-celebrated novels.

There are very few Robert Altman movies that I’ve seen and not enjoyed. The man was beyond prolific, and I’m still not 100% caught up with his genre-hopping filmography, but he made so many great, unique, and all-together interesting motion pictures that it’s no wonder he’s been the inspiration for so many of our best current filmmakers.

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‘The Long Goodbye’ is one of my absolute favorites from Altman, an overstuffed shaggy-dog detective story that is more interested in people and their eccentricities rather than concrete plot points. Written by legendary screenwriter Leigh Brackett, this film served as an updated companion piece to Brackett’s decades earlier ‘The Big Sleep’, with both taking life as original novels by Raymond Chandler; talk about loving the art of being convoluted!

The tone that Altman achieved in ‘The Long Goodbye’ is exactly why I respond so favorably to its many distinct charms; the film is a cool customer, and feels like it could only have come from that glorious decade of 70’s cinema.

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Elliot Gould did some of his best and funniest work as laconic detective Philip Marlowe, with the entire supporting cast delivering very tasty and memorable performances; Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, ex-MLB pitcher Jim Bouton, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, and filmmaker Mark Rydell were all fantastic. Altman’s trademark use of overlapping dialogue was in full swing in ‘The Long Goodbye’, and in tandem with the super-wide 2.35:1 cinematography by the legendary cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond, the film has an effortlessly cool, hazy-stoned, and oh-so-raggedly-beautiful aesthetic which is very well complimented by the Kino Blu-ray release.

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The final scene is all sorts of amazing, wrapping everything up but still retaining that loosey-goosey vibe, while the film sports a jazzy John Williams musical score. Apparently, Brian G. Hutton, Howard Hawks and Peter Bogdanovich were potential directors before Bogdanovich passed on the project, and recommended Altman. “I even lost my cat”


❉ Nick Clement’s latest venture is Podcasting Them Softly, a weekly podcast discussing all things cinema. He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com.

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