Elliott Gould’s career peaked, while Robert Altman’s cruised along at its majestic early ’70s altitude in this first (probably) and finest (arguably) mumble-noir ever made, in which a washed-up, washed-out Philip Marlowe—or “Rip Van Marlowe,” as Altman and Gould referred to him during production—sleepwalks his wisecracks across a sun-soaked L.A. steeped in the usual sin.
When old friend Terry Lenox shows up at Marlowe’s dingy penthouse to demand a ride to Tijuana, a chain of events linking murder, money, infidelity, alcoholism, and betrayal is set in motion. Why, even phony Californian Arnold Schwarzenegger puts in an appearance as a Jewish mafioso’s bodyguard, a bronze ogre tragically afflicted with chronic spasms convulsing his entire pectoral region. It looks painful, albeit mildly spectacular.
The Long Goodbye is a poignant, hangdog film about feeling lost and being left behind, but it also rings changes on the theme of feeling some version of fine even so. John Williams’ title torch-song recurs in myriad modes throughout the film, now maudlin, now menacing or manic. A friend of the diseased, neighbor to a coven of nubile, worryingly flexible mystics, unable to con even his own cat, this a Marlowe stranded in time, Chandler’s mordant gumshoe wormholed into the shimmering, post-psychedelic bummerscape we’ve all come to associate with the counterculture’s drawn out, whimpering fade. Marlowe will be some version of fine, though, down counting the waves, taking the piss. The man still has a code, after all. It’s ok with him.
The Long Goodbye
dir. Robert Altman
Part of the ongoing series: Sunshine Noir.
Double feature with Inherent Vice