In Review: The Long Goodbye (1973) on Blu-ray

by Christina Newland on 23/12/2013

the long goodbye

British distributor Arrow Films have re-released Robert Altman’s revisionist noir, The Long Goodbye, on Blu-ray. Starring Elliot Gould as a PI by the name of Philip Marlowe, Gould picks up where Bogart left off in his portrayal of Chandler’s anti-hero. Updated to 1973, Marlowe wanders the streets of Malibu; a lonely figure set against the soft pastels and long shadows of beach houses and condominiums.

Director of Photography, Vilmos Zsigmond, engaged in a process of ‘flashing’ the film reels, essentially exposing the film somewhat in order to lower the contrast of California’s sunny garishness. The result is a coolly balanced, toned-down Malibu; fitting, perhaps, for a character so out of sync with the laid-back hippiedom of the age. Gould is stunningly cool, borrowing from Bogie but never with affectation.

Based on the Chandler novel, it concerns Terry Lennox, a longtime friend of Marlowe’s, asking for his help to duck out of town after a supposed fight with his wife. After Terry’s wife turns up dead and he has seemingly vanished, Marlowe must uncover the secrecy surrounding the murder before the situation spirals out of control. Whatever conventional notions one has of noir can be dispelled here; The Long Goodbye is a self-reflexive, unpredictable film, maintaining its detective framework while tangentially exploring moments parallel to the action. A gatekeeper at the condo does his best Jimmy Stewart impressions. A gangsters’ moll turns up with a bandaged face, a la Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat.

It never feels nostalgic, just deadpan and self-aware of its own roots; Altman seems intent on reminding us how wonderful it is to watch a movie, and ends up being terribly postmodern in doing so. I would argue that The Long Goodbye not only anticipates Polanski’s Chinatown but is that film’s equal, and its high-definition transfer from MGM Studios definitely makes the Arrow Blu a disc to own.


Interviews with legendary DP Vilmos Zsigmond, critic David Thompson on Altman’s career, Elliott Gould in conversation about his role, and critics and biographers Tom Williams and Maxim Jakubowski discussing Raymond Chandler and Hard-Boiled Fiction, respectively.

A fascinating 2005 documentary, Rip Van Marlowe , has Gould and Altman himself discussing the making of the film and the ideas behind updating it. A feature-length documentary about the entire life and works of Robert Altman, titled Giggle and Give In, by filmmaker Paul Joyce, is also a delight.

Christina has awarded The Long Goodbye (1973) on Blu-ray five Torches of Truth

5 torches




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