Neil Young’s Film Lounge – The Long Goodbye



USA 1973, dir. Robert Altman, 111m

The Long Goodbye is a crazy dream of a movie and its a crazy dream of the movies, made up in equal parts of genial, easy-going tribute and vicious, sourpuss parody: pure Altman, in other Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbyewords. His starting point is Raymond Chandlers early-fifties detective novel, but this is a private eye drastically different to any we’ve seen before: Elliott Gould is a Philip Marlowe for the seventies, adrift in a bizarre, violent, sexy, woozy, dangerously seductive Los Angeles with only a crazy sense ofhumour and a vague code of honour for protection. The plot is standard twisty thriller fare, but it Altmans hands the results are magical his trademark floaty camera, overlapping vocals and blurry looseness chiming perfectly with the material and bringing the best out of Gould. Hes seldom off-screen, bemused at the weird crowd of faces that crowd around him baseball star Jim Boutons shifty pal, Laugh-In comic Henry Gibsons quack psychiatrist, veteran Sterling Haydens Hemingwayesque novelist, On Golden Pond director Mark Rydells vicious gangster. Rydells big moment features a violent, totally unexpected act which I won’t spoil, but which is, on reflection, physically impossible in fact, the whole film has the not-quite-real ambience of a nightmare (its a fascinating precursor of The Game) and perhaps Altman drops a major clue by opening with Marlowe fast asleep. This may explain the fact that, with the exception of Hooray For Hollywood over the opening and closing titles, there’s only one piece of music in this film, in this world: John Williams title song, played in endless different variations. Like the movie, its an absurd, funny, slightly scary joke, and it succeeds against the odds, brilliantly.

by Neil Young