Friday, September 04, 2015

The Long Goodbye (1973)

In contrast to the two Raymond Chandler film adaptations which preceded and succeeded it, Robert Altman's Long Goodbye offers neither a straightforward period piece like 1975's Farewell My Lovely, nor does it give audiences a contemporary set adaptation which, apart from a few swinging sixties touches, presents a straightforward adaptation which questions none of the precepts underlying the source material, as does the 1969 version of The Little Sister, Marlowe.  Instead, it sets out to explore the consequences of its main character attempting to untangle a criminal plot in the 1970s by applying what are essentially 1940s values and preconceptions.  Not surprisingly, Elliot Gould's Marlow quickly finds that his values, based around loyalty, honour and friendship, cut little ice in modern America.  He finds himself adrift in a contemporary California where only money matters, manipulated by the various parties in his case and ultimately disillusioned.

Frequently derided by Chandler purists for is major deviations from the source novel, (the climax of the film completely inverts that of the book, for instance), The Long Goodbye has matured with age.  When I first saw it, I tended to side with the purists, but subsequent viewings have mellowed my view of the film.  Sure, Gould, on the surface, seems a highly eccentric choice to play Philip Marlowe and his performance is in contrast to the cynical, yet compassionate, professional portrayed by the likes of Bogart or Robert Mitchum.  But within the film's context, of portraying a man out of his time, struggling to comprehend the cynical and uncaring world he finds himself inhabiting, it makes perfect sense.  In truth, despite the criticisms of the Chandler purists, the film doesn't really stray that far from the author's conception of Marlowe as some kind of modern knight errant - 'down these mean streets a man must go a man who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid' - Gould's Marlowe is a man of honour, who fearlessly continues to clear his friend's name in the face of threats and violence.  It's just that in the milieu of seventies California, such qualities are simply no longer effective.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home