I don’t remember what I was looking for on Netflix Instant when I came across the Robert Altman directed 1970s-set adaption of Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye” starring Elliot Gould, but it seemed so out there I had to add it to my queue. And there it sat for a considerable period of time. But this weekend I was looking for something to watch and decided to give it a shot.
The Long Goodbye is a really fascinating film. Altman uses the modern setting to deconstruct the detective genre, presenting Philip Marlowe as a man out of time. Dressed in a suit and chain smoking cigarettes, Marlowe wanders through a Los Angeles full of hippies looking like the ultimate square. It’s more than his “J.C. Penny tie” that is out of style — his code of honour puts him at odds with the world he inhabits.
I haven’t loved the few Altman films I’d seen, but the direction in The Long Goodbye is really interesting. The camera never stops moving, and performances feel improvised. The title song is used to great effect in the opening sequence — the same song is performed by several artists and intercut in different locations to introduce characters.
The movie can be hard to follow because some of the dialogue is difficult to make out, and there are still some details of the mystery that I’m unclear on. The Long Goodbye isn’t a movie you can half watch, it demands your full attention. But it’s also one of the most compelling films I’ve seen recently, and something I highly recommend.