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December 08, 2016

THE LONG GOODBYE — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Long GoodbyeRobert Altman made a bold statement in his casting of Elliott Gould as a Jewish version of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe character in this modestly budgeted film. Giving the chain-smoking Marlowe an orange tabby cat as a beloved pet adds quirky counterpoint to Gould's deceptively not-so hardboiled character. 

Elliot Gould's version of Marlowe is a postmodern '70s era invention who jives with the times as much as he clashes with them. If a bunch of partially nude model-types want to hang out on the balcony of his chic L.A. apartment (complete with its own elevator), that's fine with Gould's Marlowe; he can take it or leave it each time. Punk rocker Richard Hell could have done no better. Booze and drugs come with the territory.  

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond elevates this film’s 1.7 million budget with his signature attention to capturing light and darkness. Here is a neo-noir that uses color to emphasize Los Angeles’s speedy influence on the characters and the action. Check out the classy nighttime chase scene, between driver and pedestrian, that Ziggy shoots like something out of a sci-fi thriller with neon lights splashing across a car's wind shield as if it were a rocket ship. Breathtaking. 

Altman’s knack for making every supporting character count is just one more essential element that makes “The Long Goodbye” so memorable. Arnold Schwarzenegger's portrayal of a musclebound boy toy is perversely hilarious. There are more than a few things in this movie that you can't unsee. Whether or not you'd want to, is another story altogether. Blood does get spilled.

Elliot Gould

Rated R. 112 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


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