|Sterling Hayden and Elliott Gould discuss men's faces on the beach|
I know that it's because it encompasses my love for California (especially at a time when I was still living in Britain and dreamed of living here - though living close to Malibu did nothing to diminish the film's allure).
It's also because it encompasses my love of Chandler (rather obviously) and my belief that adaptations of anything should do whatever they wish, so long as they capture something of the spirit and intent of the author (and maybe even if they don't).
A major factor is that it encompasses my love of the ocean - and Roger Wade/Sterling Hayden is a kind of life model for me, with the craziness and the stick and the dog, though perhaps not the drinking or gambling or murder or suicide! But I would love a face like that and the sudden intensity and power he has, mixed with his lost but somehow haunting romantic quality: memories of making love with his wife - by or on the ocean.
|Elliott Gould and Nina Van Pallandt|
Here is a film that is visually stunning (thanks to Vilmos Zsigmond's inspired and constantly moving cinematography), that contains powerful, sometimes very funny, quirky and unique performances (aside from Gould, Hayden, Pallandt and the remarkable Mark Rydell, I have always loved Henry Gibson's perfectly played quack), that takes huge narrative and connective chances, that is self-referential and an ode to old-time Hollywood while being as loose and hip as it was possible to be in the 1970s, and that at the same time ends with a punch (or a shot) that at once departs from Chandler and yet somehow puts the final period on his writing - and makes perfect sense.
Plus, held together by one of the most effective and brilliantly-used music scores in cinema, we have a film that can embrace Elliott Gould's seemingly bumbling - but actually razor-sharp and socially-critical (despite his "It's okay with me") - private eye; a lost writer who is probably the most Hemingway-like figure ever captured on film; a complex and intriguing - and, in her own way, corrupt or at least complicit - wife in Nina Pallandt; and a gangster in Mark Rydell who is wholly original, genuinely funny at times...and then, in an instant, more shockingly brutal (with nothing more than a half-empty Coke bottle) than anything Tarantino has managed.
"That's someone I love. You, I don't even like, cheapie. Find my money!"
I love this movie. It's okay with me.
|One of the many posters for The Long Goodbye.|
Please visit my new, revised (not entirely by choice) Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye Facebook page, if you'd like to know more about the background to this groundbreaking film. The DVD is available from Amazon.