17 March 2004 | Ben_Cheshire
A good Altman movie: one of his best shot, and with a great soundtrack.
Beautiful early John Williams score, really well shot. I wish more Altman films were this slick visually: many interesting visual things happening, reflections upon reflections, beautiful compositions. Plus, the film stock this was shot on looks more expensive than the one Altman usually uses. Makes this look more like a movie, and his other movies (aside from Gosford Park perhaps, which is also self-referential) look more like we're spying on actual happenings, from the graininess of the footage resembling home video almost. I must say The Long Goodbye has an admirably smart look about it due to this better film stock. Elliot Gould's performance of Marlowe as a man sort of drifing through this movie, like the naked hippies next door to him, fits well with Altman's depiction and send-up of contemporary (1973) LA. Funny motifs run throughout: the security guard who does impressions of Hollywood celebrities (Jimmy Stewart is probably his best) is lots of fun, and also Marlowe's temporamental cat provides amusement. Like with Dr T and the Women and MASH, however, the "jokes" in Altman comedies are not really intended just for empty amusment - so you don't necessarily laugh out loud. More often than not, though there is humour for humour's sake, the jokes are vicious, slap in the face-style, attacks at certain social constructs (or often just presentations of certain social biases, like treatment of blacks and women in MASH). Curios: Arnold Schwarzenegger before he was famous, playing the next step up from an extra, owing to his muscle man frame exposed in the scene where Augustine has his thugs and Marlowe strip so they'll be honest. He looks ridiculous with those breasts of his. Screenplay by THE Leigh Brackett, screenwriter of classic Bogart flick The Big Sleep (1946), based on another of Raymond Chandler's Marlowe novels. Obviously a lot of Chandler's overly complex plot had to be summarised, but i think Brackett (in an Altman movie most of the dialogue has been reworked by improvisation and rehearsal by the time it gets to the screen, but it was certainly Brackett who gave the overall structure of how it would be adapted and how much of the book could be told in the movie) did a good job with the hard task she was given - the plot of Chandler's novel is more convoluted than The Big Sleep, if that's any indication! Bottom line: what a great soundtrack! One of Altman's best movies, and one of his best shot. If you're not a fan of his ensemble movies (how could you not be, but still) here's one of his narrower, smaller cast movies that works really well.