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The Long Goodbye

"Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973) attacks film noir with three of his most cherished tools: Whimsy, spontaneity and narrative perversity. He is always the most youthful of directors, and here he gives us the youngest of Philip Marlowes, the private eye as a Hardy boy. Marlowe hides in the bushes, pokes his nose up against a window, complains like a spoiled child, and runs after a car driven by the sexy heroine, crying out 'Mrs. Wade! Mrs. Wade!' As a counterweight, the movie contains two startling acts of violence; both blindside us, and neither is in the original Raymond Chandler novel."

"Altman began with a screenplay by Leigh Brackett, the legendary writer of 'The Big Sleep' (1946), the greatest of the many films inspired by Marlowe. On that one her co-writer was William Faulkner. There is a famous story that they asked Chandler who killed one of the characters (or was it suicide?). Chandler's reply: 'I don't know.' There is a nod to that in 'The Long Goodbye' when a character who was murdered in the book commits suicide in the movie."

"Certainly the plot of 'The Long Goodbye' is a labyrinth not easily negotiated. Chandler's 1953 novel leads Marlowe into a web of deception so complex you could call it arbitrary. The book is not about a story but about the code of a private eye in a corrupt world. It is all about mood, personal style, and language. In her adaptation, Brackett dumps sequences from Chandler, adds some of her own (she sends Marlowe to Mexico twice), reassigns killings, and makes it almost impossible to track a suitcase filled with a mobster's money."

"Casting is crucial in film noir, because the actors have to arrive already bearing their fates. Altman's actors are as unexpected as they are inevitable. Sterling Hayden, a ravaged giant, roars and blusters on his way to his grave. As his wife, Altman cast Nina Van Pallandt, then famous as the mistress of Clifford Irving, author of the celebrated fake autobiography of Howard Hughes. She could act, but she did more than act, she embodied a Malibu beach temptress. Mark Rydell, the director, seems to be channeling Martin Scorsese's verbal style in a performance that uses elaborate politeness as a mask for savagery. And Elliott Gould is a Marlowe thrust into a story were everybody else knows their roles. He wanders clueless and complaining, and then suddenly understands exactly what he must do."

"'The Long Goodbye' should not be anybody's first film noir, nor their first Altman movie. Most of its effect comes from the way it pushes against the genre, and the way Altman undermines the premise of all private eye movies, which is that the hero can walk down mean streets, see clearly, and tell right from wrong. The man of honor from 1953 is lost in the hazy narcissism of 1973, and it's not all right with him." -------- Roger Ebert


  • Widescreen
  • Available Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Featurette - Director of Photography's "Vilmos Zsigmond Flashes The Long Goodbye"
  • Featurette - "Rip Van Marlowe"
  • Radio Spots, Trailers, and Magazine Articles

Curator's Comments:
Read Roger Ebert's essay on this DVD Classic.

Director: Robert Altman
112 minutes
Released: 1973
Rated: R

Country: U.S.A.
Language: English
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller, Mystery


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