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Overall Rating

Awesome: 38.1%
Worth A Look47.62%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 9.52%
Total Crap: 4.76%

2 reviews, 9 user ratings

Long Goodbye, The
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by DarkHorse

"The Long Goodbye is OK with me..."
5 stars

I get a rush when I see a brilliant movie that I have never heard of before. It reminds me of how I felt when I was a kid and I discovered the likes of Hitchcock and Humphrey Bogart. Watching this movie, I felt like I had uncovered a forgotten masterpiece. It was every bit as rewarding as when I saw Chinatown or The Big Sleep for the very first time.

Phillip Marlowe was a character created by Raymond Chandler in a novel called “The Big Sleep” in 1939. Marlowe was a wise-cracking private eye who was constantly double-crossed by friends, clients and especially women (i.e. dames). Sleuthing was his trade, but somehow the cases always became personal. In the end they were generally more about putting demons to rest than solving a murder or a missing persons case. Marlowe was cynical to the bone, sentimental at times, a tad self-destructive and undeniably human.

Seven years after it was written (and seven years before “The Long Goodbye” was published) The Big Sleep (1946) was brought to the screen with Humphrey Bogart in the role of Phillip Marlowe.

Bogart was born to play Marlowe. His performance was not much different than his role as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941), but the dialogue was a shade darker and, at times, razor-sharp. Take for example his response to Lauren Bacall when she comments on his lack of etiquette:

"I don't mind if you don't like my manners. I don't like them myself. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them long winter evenings"

In the mid to late forties there was an explosion of movies penned by Chandler and other film adaptations of his novels.

The Lady in The Lake (1947) featured Robert Montgomery in the role of Marlowe, using a first-person perspective that was supposed to make the viewer feel like they were walking in the gumshoe's shoes. His performance was so stiff that it was probably a good thing that he was able to avoid being in front of the camera for the bulk of the film.

George Montgomery was equally as forgettable in 1947's The Brasher Doubloon (based on Chandler's novel "The High Window").

Dick Powell played Marlowe a few years before Bogie's interpretation, in Murder, My Sweet (based on the book "Farewell, My Lovely"). Hollywood changed the title so audiences wouldn't mistake it for a musical (Powell was quite famous for his musicals prior to starring in this film). Many consider this to be the definitive film version of Phillip Marlowe, but I will reserve comment as I still have yet to see it.

Phillip Marlowe didn’t resurface until 1969 when James Garner played the role in the ingeniously titled Marlowe, based on the novel "The Little Sister".

Since then Marlowe has been played by James Caan, Robert Mitchum (twice) and Powers Boothe. But before those portrayals it was Elliott Gould's turn as Marlowe in The Long Goodbye (1973) that reinvented the classic character.

Robert Altman decided to essentially insert the Phillip Marlowe of the forties and fifties into the drug/health culture of 1973. In the director's DVD commentary, Altman describes how he wanted take the source material and simply transplant it into the present. He also used the zoom lens (frowned upon by many directors at the time) to great effect and opted to keep the cameras moving constantly while allowing his actors to move freely without the use of marks. His most ingenious move was to let Eliott Gould improvise and, as a result, make the character his own.

Gould's Marlowe exists in a world of his own. The things that go on around him seem distant even when they are right on top of him. He continuously mutters wise-cracks as he glides through different scenarios. It becomes quite clear that he saying these things for his own benefit and it's a character trait very befitting a guy that's been screwed, swindled or lied to by just about everyone he's ever met. Detaching himself from the outside world is how he keeps things at arm’s length.

He often says "It's OK with me" when he encounters something (or someone) that he doesn't understand (or doesn't want to get involved with). It's his way of saying that he doesn't care about particulars so long as it doesn't have any direct effect upon him. It is a catch-phrase that Gould came up with himself.

The plot involves Marlowe trying to prove (or convince himself) that a good friend did not commit murder. The detective gets thrown in jail, is hired by a lady to find her missing husband, encounters some thugs searching for a lost briefcase full of cash. And it should come as no surprise to learn that all these occurrences are tied together quite nicely. It would be a sin to reveal any more than that.

Some people gripe about the decision to update the story to the 70's. But oddly it is that very decision that gives the movie such an authentic feel. Any fan of Robert Altman, Raymond Chandler or Elliott Gould should seek out this movie immediately. The DVD includes a better than average "making of" featurette that offers so many new insights that a second viewing of the film seems almost mandatory. A featurette about the choreography is more enjoyable and informative than it has any right to be.

Watch this movie when you can just sit back and take it all in. The Long Goodbye is going to sit proudly on my Film Noir shelf right in between The Big Sleep and Double Indemnity and Laura. Great stuff.

Superb directing, pitch-perfect choreography, top-notch casting and acting all converge to make a film that is a true classic. And one you've probably never seen.

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originally posted: 06/12/03 21:00:08
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User Comments

7/27/13 Fire With Fire Altman's usual,badly filmed and acted,overrated,smug deconstruction, of Raymond Chandler 1 stars
9/24/09 JosieCottonisagoddess Did he ever find his cat? 4 stars
1/30/08 Indrid Cold All but forgotten compared to Chinatown. I think it's better though. 4 stars
3/19/06 mr. mike recommended for altman fans/film buffs 4 stars
8/14/05 mike bizarre , but recommended for altman/70's film buffs 4 stars
7/19/03 RSG Brilliant! 5 stars
7/11/03 jerry This movie is without a doubt my number 1 fave!! 5 stars
5/15/03 Charles Tatum or, how to make Raymond Chandler boring 2 stars
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  07-Mar-1973 (R)



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