By Leo Racicot
The Long Goodbye – 1973 – Dir. Robert Altman
The late, great Robert Altman once again lends his distinctive, experimental style to what has come to be regarded as this definitive interpretation of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. It’s a winner! Thirty-six this year, the film still plays as fresh and as contemporary as it did the year it was made. The tale of a double murder and the unfortunate detective who gets dragged, kicking and screaming, into the thick of it is filled with a permeating cynicism, underhanded absurdities and shattering acts of violence. Crime author Raymond Chandler, like his contemporaries Dashiell Hammett and Ross McDonald, created glamorous worlds of danger and intrigue where a usually hapless, albeit decent guy, finds himself way over his head in the soup. Here, Chandler’s anti-hero, Phillip Marlowe, is helmed by the underrated Elliott Gould. A huge star in the 60s and 70s (Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, M.A.S.H.), Gould brings a bizarrely effortless spin to a role played in more traditional ways by everyone from Bogart to James Garner. His dopey, befuddled schmuck look assists him ably in Altman’s clever conceit of placing a 1950s-style detective into a 1970s-style world. It is as if this “Rip van Marlowe”, waking from a long slumber, has been transported via some private eye time tunnel twenty years into the future — a future he does not understand and is more than a little bit lost in.