The Essential Movie Library #87: The Long Goodbye (1973)

Three years later he’ll move to New York, change his name to Travis Bickle, and drive cabs for a living

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Marlowe After the Fall, Part Two: The quintessential Los Angeles character, Raymond Chandler’s private-eye has been portrayed by Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell, James Garner, Powers Boothe, and of course the definitive Humphrey Bogart, a supporting actor who rode the L.A. dream roller-coaster well into middle- age when he became both the biggest star of his day and the unlikeliest. Bogart seemed to know who he was, which in Hollywood counted for something. In that sense the casting of Elliott Gould—who himself had knocked around and seemed as inevitably bound for the supporting roles he would get in the autumn of his career—as Philip Marlowe in Robert Altman’s adaptation of Chandler’s best book wasn’t as shocking as it seemed. Forlorn and decidedly glamour-challenged, Gould conveys the bone-deep melancholy of the only man in town who not only hasn’t sold his soul but may have had one in the first place.

Altman doesn’t appear to have been impressed by either the novel or Marlowe’s mythos. The most revered of American directors in the ‘70s before the passing decades revealed just how smug a filmmaker he was, and maybe how smug we were as audiences, he nonetheless made two pictures that endure the longer perspective: the murmuring Western McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and The Long Goodbye, where even Altman grasped just how cheap irony can be, before his integrity turned to sanctimony and rebelliousness to self-regard. Here the filmmaker catches the lazy allure and pernicious decadence of L.A. in a way the subsequent Short Cuts didn’t; maybe Altman fashioned himself the Marlowe of directors. “It’s all right with me,” Gould keeps shrugging his way through the movie, the fabled detective—unruffled by naked nymphs wandering faux-castle ramparts—now a veteran of the sandblasted and sunburst ’60s. He professes not to care about anything until, in a shocking coda, it becomes clear he’s the only one who cares at all. Three years later he’ll move to New York, change his name to Bickle, and drive cabs for a living.

The Essential Movie Library #86: Kiss Me Deadly
The Essential Movie Library #85: The Last of the Mohicans
The Essential Movie Library #84: La Belle Noiseuse
The Essential Movie Library #83: Goldfinger / GoldenEye / Skyfall
The Essential Movie Library #82: The Bourne Trilogy
The Essential Movie Library #81: Zero Dark Thirty
The Essential Movie Library #80: A Place in the Sun
The Essential Movie Library #79: Boogie Nights
The Essential Movie Library #78:  Le Samouraï
The Essential Movie Library #77: The Wild Bunch
The Essential Movie Library #76: Barton Fink
The Essential Movie Library #75: The Spirit of the Beehive
The Essential Movie Library #74: Sexy Beast
The Essential Movie Library #73: Groundhog Day
The Essential Movie Library #72: Rear Window
The Essential Movie Library #71: The 400 Blows
The Essential Movie Library #70: Blue Velvet
The Essential Movie Library #69: Dr. Strangelove
The Essential Movie Library #68: The Bicycle Thieves
The Essential Movie Library #67: Pulp Fiction
The Essential Movie Library #66: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
The Essential Movie Library #65: Caché
The Essential Movie Library #64: A Hard Day’s Night
The Essential Movie Library #63: The Searchers
The Essential Movie Library #62: The Conformist
The Essential Movie Library #61: Bonnie & Clyde
The Essential Movie Library #60: Sweet Smell of Success
The Essential Movie Library #59: Melancholia
The Essential Movie Library #58: La Dolce Vita
The Essential Movie Library #57: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
The Essential Movie Library #56: Contempt
The Essential Movie Library #55: Sunset Boulevard
The Essential Movie Library #54: Metropolis
The Essential Movie Library #53: In A Lonely Place
The Essential Movie Library #52: Talk to Her
The Essential Movie LIbrary #51: To Be or Not To Be
The Essential Movie Library #50: The Battle of Algiers
The Essential Movie Library #49: Notorious
The Essential Movie Library #48: Wings of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #47: L’Avventura
The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X
The Essential Movie Library #45: In the Mood for Love / 2046
The Essential Movie Library #44: Touch of Evil
The Essential Movie Library #43: Once Upon A Time in the West
The Essential Movie Library #42: Belle de Jour
The Essential Movie Library #41: Apocalypse Now
The Essential Movie Library #40: Out of the Past
The Essential Movie Library #39: Branded to Kill
The Essential Movie Library #38: The General
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin’ in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L’Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2
The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo
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