Monday, July 9, 2012
The Long Goodbye. A-
I had no idea that Robert Altman had also taken on Raymond Chandler's classic PI Phillip Marlowe (I just saw Dmytryck's Murder, My Sweet), so when I discovered he had, The Long Goodbye became a must-see. Marlowe is fantastic and dark and witty character, his bleak sense of humor only more impactive with Altman's update to the moral chaos of 1970s LA. You feel even worse for Marlowe if you take him from the 40s and plop him in the 70s, because 30 years later people in his world are even more deceptive and cruel and manipulative. It also gives Marlowe's dialogue even more life because there's more absurdity in this culture, more crumby behavior for him to criticize. The story itself is classic Chandler (though there's plenty of details altered by screenwriter Leigh Brackett, who also wrote The Big Sleep with William Faulkner) with lots of shady characters who are connected in confusing ways, only this one is perhaps even more muddling because Altman doesn't even seem all that interested in the plot. Narrative coherence takes a seat to an overall study of Marlowe and the noir genre. The result is a fascinating movie, entertaining because of Marlowe's persona, and thought provoking because of his place in the world and why he must stay there.