Movie #6 2021: The Long Goodbye (1973)

Robert Altman is a director that has so far eluded me. Whilst his 1975 musical comedy-drama Nashville is top of my watchlist, it never seems to be available anywhere, so I settled for this. And I don’t regret it.

The Long Goodbye is based on Raymond Chandler‘s 1953 novel of the same name. Centring around private detective Phillip Marlowe, Elliott Gould (yes, Jack Geller from Friends) stars in the lead role. When Marlowe is asked by his best friend Terry for a lift to the US-Mexico border in the middle of the night, he obliges without question. Upon his return home however, he is met by two police detectives who claim Terry is wanted for the murder of his wife. When he is arrested as the last man to see his friend, Marlowe is later released after three days when the police conclude that Terry committed suicide while in Mexico. Not all is as it seems though, and Marlowe sets out to uncover what really happened.

Don’t you just love it when a movie looks it’s age? And man, this movie smells like the seventies. The hair, the texture, the costuming… even the sound mixing sounds like the seventies. 

Whilst we’re on such aural topics, upon watching, I wondered why I was enjoying the score so much… then I realised it was composed by John Williams. It’s not as “grand” as Star Wars or Jurassic Park, but wow, it’s brilliant. With this being one of Williams’ earlier works, it’s no surprise that he became so renowned after such a score.

Elliott Gould as Marlowe is the coolest customer you’ll ever see on screen. Even when he doesn’t have that cigarette hanging out of his mouth, (smoking is bad, kids) he is the personification of level-headedness and calmness and it’s truly a delight to watch him slink around the room. There’s none of that loud-mouthed goofiness that Jack Geller has, that’s for sure.

What I’m trying to say is, The Long Goodbye is probably the best neo-noir thriller I’ve ever seen. A brilliant, Art Deco style snapshot that questions the lines of morality with a dark, comedic wit and a sinister undertone running seamlessly through it. Sounds good, right? Though the script is nothing to write home about, the narrative itself is intriguing and stylish, with twists that will really peak your interest.

It’s not always the most exciting or pacy movie, but it uses its subtlety to expertly weave a narrative and certainly it’s worth the pay off by the end. If nothing else, it’s worth watching purely for Gould. 

Side note: Marlow labels his cat flap “El Porto Del Gato” – there are even blots of chucklesome humour involved.

The Long Goodbye is available to stream on MUBI in the UK. (I’ll say it again: They’re currently offering a three month subscription for just £1! Don’t miss it!)

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