Thursday, July 14, 2011

#158: The Long Goodbye

Raymond Chandler, if a teenager were to come across his works, I would doubt be described as anything but someone who in their lingo 'rocks'. That edginess in his writing should appeal to anyone but that lazy air of his characters, the incomparable style of his protagonist Philip Marlowe and the terse repartees are undboutedly the stuff that should get any young mind excited. Of course, his story plots would also go on to to have a far more universal appeal but to my mind Raymond Chandler would always be the guy whose Farewell, my Lovely beheld me with it's page-turning ability. The Long Goodbye is a novel had the good fortune to be directed by Robert Altman, so it was natural that I would lap it up in my mind even before I had seen it. And when you see a movie with such pre-conceived notions, the satisfaction is even more, if it delivers. The Long Goodbye did just that.

In it, the nonchalant detective Phil Marlowe is played by Eliott Gould, among whose credits count the recent Ocean's Eleven series where he played a supporting role in a stellar cast. To see Gould in his younger days, with a swagger, an inimitable style quotient and an inherent coolness factor was nothing short of a revelation. The murder mystery that it is, The Long Goodbye, has a fluid storyline that keeps you on tenterhooks from the very first scene. Also making an appearance is the screen legend Sterling Hayden, as Roger Wade, an old writer with a young wife. While Gould is trying to solve the mysterious death of his friend, he can't help but be curious about Wade's nubile better half. There's more to it than meets the eye as far as the Wades are concerned and Marlowe, being the cat that he is, isn't going to miss a beat.

With a pacy screenplay, Leigh Brackett (co-writer of acclaimed movies such as Rio Bravo, The Big Sleep and Hatari ) retains the skeleton of the book but gives it a new soul. On the cinematography front, DOP Vilmos Zsigmond succeeds in creating an atmosphere of stifling suspense. Zsigmond and Altman also partnered in McCabe and Mrs. Miller and this is a team that seriously knows how to go about it's business. Some of the visuals are nothing short of gems that should be framed for eternity, the last walk by Marlowe for instance. There is no doubt that you will see Gould in a new light once you've finished the movie. With the suave manner of a Bogart and the calm demeanor of a Michael Caine, he is the show stopper in a movie that's as glamorous as steely. Watch out for Marlowe's perennial cigarette-lipped dialogue delivery and you will also know one of the reasons why the role so deserved an Oscar nomination.

The Long Goodbye has an unmistakeable aura of intrigue around it like any great thriller. On top of that, it's got a tight story that's delivered through convincing performances. Little about it is banal or trite and that's why I would rank it as one of the best thrillers of all time from the Hollywood stable.

Do not miss it. This one's right up there.

Rating: 7.8/10

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