Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Long Goodbye (1973)

Director: Robert Altman
Writers:  Leigh Brackett, Raymond Chandler (Novel)
Cast:       Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden

"I have two friends in the world. One is a cat. The other is a murderer". Detective Philip Marlowe tries to help a friend who is accused of murdering his wife.

The film is an adaptation of Raymond Chandler's 1953 novel with the same name. The time period was updated from 1950 to 1970s Hollywood and there were some significant changes to the original story when it was adapted to the screen, especially the ending. Philip Marlowe in the film is a throwback to older times where loyalty counted for something. In the time period the film is set in, Marlowe is kind of anachronistic being surrounded by people who are selfish and are out there only for themselves. The very first scene of the film establishes the character with him going out at three in the morning to get his cat the exact brand of cat food that it eats. Ultimately, it is loyalty that dictates how he reacts at the end when he pieces it all together to find out that he was just used. 

Even without the last sequence of the film, which is more of an exposition, I was able to kind of piece it all together except the money part. In that sense they could have done without the last act which is a significant change from the book, but it is in keeping with the loyalty theme of the film. The gangster Marty Augustine and his shenanigans were not there in the book but it is a worthy addition, in spite of the confusion it creates, because it is really brilliant. It kind of reminded me of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

It is another one of those films that I discovered through RAWK where a discussion on Polanski's 'Chinatown' was going on and 'The Long Goodbye' was cited as a superior version of it and it came ahead of it. I can see that argument. I love Chinatown but it now kind of feels like a bigger budget and more star studded version of the long goodbye. Elliott Gould is brilliant as Philip Marlowe and I also enjoyed Sterling Hayden as the drunk writer, Roger Wade.

Robert Altman usually makes film that are at least two and hours long but this one comes under two hours and it is a neo-noir classic. He is certainly someone who has influenced a lot of the directors who came after him as well many of his peers.If you are a fan of film noir or you liked Chinatown, then it is a must watch film.

Rating: 5/5