Philip Marlowe is one of the most iconic fictional characters of all time. Bogart and Mitchum both made great impersonations of the character in the forties and seventies, and Chandler’s hero was favorite private detective of every thriller lover in the world. Recently, while I was playing “The Witcher” video-game, private detective in the game was called Marlowe in obvious homage to the Chandler’s remarkable work of fiction.
Nevertheless, there is one specific adaptation of Philip Marlowe which is different from any other. While in the sixties man touched the moon, in the seventies hopes and dreams of hippie generation started to fade; Nixon fixed the dollar value as relative to oil, economy was in crisis, and morally dubious Vietnam war was raging through the US mindset. As always, when times are tough, movies and culture turn in two general directions: satire and retro nostalgia.
In “The Long Goodbye”, Robert Altman did it all, Chandler’s hero in the Altman’s film is disconnected to the world of the seventies and his own world has already gone. Brilliantly played by Elliot Gould (performance of the career in my opinion) he doesn’t belong anywhere, and while he tries to reach out to the world even his pernickety cat leaves him because he tried to trick her with the wrong brand of cat food. From that little part of the puzzle, Altman builds the world in which our hero is exploited to the very end. Strain of events in which Marlowe is pulled includes disappearance of a friend, drunken writer (Hemingway alike), his gorgeous blond wife with a doberman and a group of women without any logical purpose (except to be alternative and to show their tits on the balcony while practicing yoga). From pernickety cat to the yoga women, illogical world of Philip Marlowe is falling apart. Hippie generation is disillusioned, and their purpose isn’t clear even to themselves (as they’re forced to grow up), even cats (predators and independent as they are) don’t trust the lies and the tricks before them and Philip Marlowe as a relict of the times past is forced to enter the spiral of “The Long Goodbye”. The only problem is that we’re not sure for who is “The Long Goodbye” intended, to the world or the Marlowe himself?
“The Long Goodbye” is preparing the stage for “Nashville”, Short-Cuts” and all the other great Altman films to come, but it also gives us reassurance that the world, lost as it is, has a way of mending itself. The ending of the movie, untypically violent for Philip Marlowe, is the catharsis of the character and the viewer at the same time. Final showdown of the belief that the world isn’t as corrupted (which Marlowe demonstrates throughout the movie) and the harsh reality which suggests that it is.
“The Long Goodbye” is a film to watch and although it wasn’t received very well when it came out, revaluation puts it where it belongs: alongside the most important crime-films of the seventies.
In the end, one of the curiosities of this film is one the first Hollywood roles of future action star Arnold Schwarzenegger (this is his second Hollywood performance) and here was only important for his character to be pretty, masculine and in the underpants:
RATING : 8/10