Raymond Chandler is one of the most iconic mystery writers the world has ever witnessed. His prose is so vivid in documenting the landscape and hallucinating atmosphere of Los Angeles that you felt as if you were living under the California sun. His hardboiled, no nonsense detective Philip Marlowe has become the quintessential for aspiring mystery writers to craft their own PI’s from. Marlowe is a wise cracking, top shelf liquor drinking independent that represented what every man wanted to be. Having been portrayed by Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell, Marlowe had continued to carry this “man’s man” image, that is, until Robert Altman came along.
Robert Altman famously said that Chandler felt Marlowe was at his core a loser, except he turned him into a false winner. Altman, being the genre bender and revisionist that he was, turned Marlowe into a laid back, chain smoking satire on PIs. That and updating the setting from 1940s LA to the early 1970s counterculture hangover, The Long Goodbye was nonetheless a treat to see.
- Marlowe is approached by his friend Terry Lennox and is asked to give him a ride to Tijuana because he and his wife Sylvia are getting separated.
- Marlowe arrives back and is approach by two detectives who said that Lennox killed his wife. Marlowe refuses to believe it but is released from captivity after the station receives word that Terry committed suicide.
- Marlowe then is hired by a woman named Elieen Wade to find her husband Roger. His search leads him to a detox center where Roger is being extorted for money.
- Once Roger is home, Marlowe is ambushed by gangster Marty Augustine who says Terry was running down to Tijuana to traffic money for him.
- At the boiling point of the film, it is an accumulation of revelations that contain collusion, double crossing and set ups that make the mystery genre so attractive.
What I Liked
- Elliot Gould was a perfect casting choice to play an alternative take on Phillip Marlowe. He carried himself like a mope to the point where we can see he isn’t the casa nova that Bogart portrayed Marlowe as, yet carried a sense of confidence that only a laid back, west coast 1970s PI could have. Additionally, his cracking and witty remarks made me feel as if this film was an honest parody.
- I really enjoyed watching the architecture throughout the film, especially at the wade house. A nice beach side home to conduct investigations for murder and missing persons doesn’t sound as bad as it seems.
What I Disliked
- As much as I loved the reinterpretation of Chandler’s novel, I would have like to see the film share more qualities with the book, particularly with the plot. As someone who looks at detective films as a journey to get lost in as opposed to finding answers, this film felt a little too watered down (though most adaptions of Chandler’s novel are).
- With that being said, it’s a little bit of a conflict to say that because that is what Altman was trying to achieve. We watered down Marlowe to the extent of a casual man who does investigates the same way he lives. It was simpler, reflecting a “less is more philosophy.” So while I may be dissatisfied with it, I accept it.
Should You See It?
- This is an old school movie that I feel everyone can enjoy. It humorous enough during the slow paced scenes and give an eccentric view at the city of Los Angeles. I highly recommend it.