“”Possession” is what you get in here now. Possession of noses, possession of gonads, possession of life. It’s a weird world. Listen, some day, some day, all the pigs are gonna be in here, and the people are gonna be out there.”
‘The Long Goodbye’, directed by Robert Altman in 1973, is an American neo-noir satire based on the 1953 novel by Raymond Chandler. Elliott Gould plays Philip Marlowe, a private eye who is drawn into a plot involving his friend, a detox facility, a Hemmingway-esque alcoholic writer and his younger wife. It’s a film that has its cake and eats it. Altman steers a deft line between the pleasurable seediness and complexity of the noir thrillers of the 1940s and 1950s and the ironic, cynical movies of the New Hollywood genre. The key to the film is the shift in time period of the original story to the 1970s, but the retardation of the Marlowe character making him an old-fashioned product of the 1950s. Altman uses the conventions of the genre as a tool to unpick the preoccupation and anxieties of contemporary America with Marlowe serving as a wry witness to them, embedded in the low-life of the time, but somehow distant and aloof. This distance is played with by Altman through his traditional style of long distance camera shots, long takes, overlapping dialogue and lurches in tone. Gould’s performance is also a key to this, playing the part of Marlowe as he has performed other roles for Altman, particularly in ‘M*A*S*H’.
Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s one of the more accessible Altman movies – the plot, whilst complex is tight and consistent, and shock of the conclusion earned. Watch in a double bill with ‘The Maltese Falcon’ for a contrast.