11 June 2006 | Lechuguilla
Marlowe, The Marlboro Man
Usually smoking, and sometimes smirking, Elliott Gould mumbles and stumbles his way through Altman's re-invention of this gumshoe novel by Raymond Chandler. The film's unexpectedly interesting ending suggests a good story, but you'd never know it from the film's plot, which rambles and meanders, seemingly without purpose, a pointless talk-fest wherein Marlowe interacts with the cops, a femme fatale, a buddy who wants to disappear, and assorted hoods and mobsters. It's all rather sordid and seedy as you would expect, except that it's brought up to date, for 1973, and in its "hipness" and sophistication becomes something of a parody of 1940's private-eye flicks. Gould's Marlowe is annoyingly smug, with a too casual manner. And I found none of the other characters to be sympathetic or likable.
The dialogue and the acting are stilted and self-conscious. In one party sequence that takes place on the beach, Dr. Verringer (Henry Gibson) insists that he get his money. The guests stand around, as if they are movie extras brought in for this one day of shooting. The viewer can easily imagine microphones just over the heads of the principal actors, and personnel just off-screen, waiting for Altman to yell: "Cut". Along with other scenes, it looks forced and staged.
The film's best attribute is its cinematography. I especially like the sequence showing human figures retreating into the surf at night. Combined with the sound of ocean waves, it makes for an interesting segment.
Some viewers love this film because of Altman's direction and Gould's performance. Others hate it because it so deviates from Chandler's original story. I personally did not like the film, mostly because of Marlowe, himself, and because of the tangled and convoluted plot, populated by loquacious characters who I found totally not interesting.