The Long Goodbye (1973)

Genres - Mystery, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Post-Noir (Modern Noir)  |   Release Date - Mar 7, 1973 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

Alternately a cheeky send-up of Hollywood and a cutting revision of the powerful detective and his moral code, the movie, co-written by Robert Altman with Leigh Brackett, who co-scripted The Big Sleep in 1946, presents a Marlowe wholly adrift in 1970s Los Angeles. Unlike the ultra-cool version of Marlowe embodied by The Big Sleep's Humphrey Bogart, Elliott Gould's Marlowe is a man out of his time, driving a vintage sedan and impervious to the hippie girls who live across from him. The truth he discovers only confirms how much the moral universe of the old Hollywood Marlowe no longer applies to contemporary California, and, despite his passive refrain, that's not OK with him. Altman's widescreen, zoom-lens shots layer characters upon each other while constantly shifting the composition, emphasizing that people are never as they seem and that events are out of Marlowe's control. Marlowe's impotence and Altman's acerbic tone did not sit well with critics or audiences, nor did TV censors approve of Marlowe's final capacity for violence; the original ending was re-edited for TV prints. Despite its cool reception in 1973, Altman's appraisal of the powers of Hollywood myth made The Long Goodbye one of the more telling 1970s reworkings of the film noir tradition, as well as a central player in Altman's ongoing 1970s effort to revisit major Hollywood genres in light of contemporary American values.