The Long Goodbye Blu-Ray review
What’s It About? Private eye Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) receives a visit from an old friend who asks to be driven to Tijuana. After Marlowe returns, he’s arrested for abetting the murder of his friend’s wife and, on his release, Eileen Wade (Nina van Pallandt) contacts him to search for her missing husband Roger (Sterling Hayden), an author and alcoholic. But this is 70s Hollywood and as Philip delves deeper, he starts to uncover notions that honour and loyalty mean very little in this hedonistic world.
Verdict: Based on detective fiction writer Raymond Chandler’s novel and brought to the screen by legendary director Robert Altman, the film sits somewhere between both artists’ visions. Altman shows his familiar touches with dialogue fades and dramatic character moments, but it’s the film’s slow burning aesthetic which shows that the combination of both auteurs can create a sum of large parts; we are drawn into one storyline only to find we have become a pawn in another quite late in the game. The film’s excellent direction never feels the need to rush anything and, instead, slowly smoothes out the creases in the story for a reveal that the viewer shocked and awed.
Sterling Hayden slap-dashes his performance, and whilst convincing, it lacks enough passion for the viewer to honestly care either way about his character. Van Pallandt flaunts her sexuality with striking confidence, yet still manages to be a real key in the mystery of the film, proving there’s more than just looks to this blonde beauty. But the film’s leading man – Elliott Gould – is the reason why it’s such a damn fine movie. He demonstrates the kind of downtrodden private eye so richly portrayed in film noir, yet his actions take on a different twist due to his surroundings wandering around Hollywood with his smart suit that never sits right on his frame and his constant need to light up a cigarette, no matter where or when. His sarcastic charisma rubs most up the wrong way, but it sits perfectly well with the ladies he encounters. Marlowe is the epitome of coolness.
Extras: Kicking off the rather special extras is an interview with director Robert Altman and star Elliott Gould. Also an interview with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond about the styling of the film. Producer of the BBC’s ‘Robert Altman In England’ programme, David Thompson talks about The Long Goodbye in the spectrum of Altman’s career. An insightful feature with Raymond Chandler biographer Tom Williams about the author’s work and the adaptation of Altman’s film compared to the book. Crime writer and critic Maxim Jakubowski discusses the journey of detective characters from 1920s pulp magazines through to the 1950s, and shows the genesis of how some develop whilst others are left in their own era. The greatest extra here is the acclaimed documentary profile on Robert Altman which includes contributions from a wide range of people who worked with him. It’s fascinating to hear the stories about this brilliant auteur, especially from those who got to know him and understood his processes.
Final Words: While misunderstood at the time of its original release, The Long Goodbye now feels ahead of the game, with Altman’s direction showing the end of one type of Hollywood and the slow progression of a celebrity-obsessed city. Gould, most famous nowadays for being Monica and Ross’s dad in Friends, pounds the film with uber-hipness and engaging presence. Film noir really got a shot in the arm with this movie.
The Long Goodbye is released on Blu-ray on 16 December 2013