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‚Äôs 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‚ÄĒwho himself had knocked around and seemed as¬†inevitably bound for the supporting roles he would get in the autumn of his career‚ÄĒas Philip Marlowe in Robert Altman‚Äôs adaptation of Chandler‚Äôs best book wasn‚Äôt 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‚Äôt sold his soul but¬†may have had one in the first place.

Altman doesn‚Äôt appear to have been impressed by either the novel or Marlowe‚Äôs¬†mythos. The most revered of American directors in the ‚Äė70s 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‚Äôt;¬†maybe Altman fashioned himself the Marlowe of directors. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs all right with me,‚Ä̬†Gould keeps shrugging his way through the movie, the fabled detective‚ÄĒunruffled¬†by naked nymphs wandering faux-castle ramparts‚ÄĒnow a veteran of the sandblasted¬†and sunburst ‚Äô60s. He professes not to care about anything until, in a shocking coda, it¬†becomes clear he‚Äôs the only one who cares at all. Three years later he‚Äôll 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 Samoura√Į
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
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy