Robert AltmanThe Long Goodbye (1973), 7/10

Writing and presentation are clearly backed by passion and attention to detail in The Long Goodbye, a film that simultaneously leans into its acting performances while indulging in its individual humor. The film owes much of its thematic meaning to Raymond Chandler’s novel but takes its demonstration seriously, all while essentially crafting a different style. Like many film adaptations of the written novel, do not harbor expectations against the visual product or risk disappointment. Elliott Gould is witty and endlessly charming as Philip Marlowe, of course, but the details both in narrative commentary and cinematic progression make the film special beyond the norm. Characters like the colony guard with his colorful impressions or the mastery in Hayden’s unstable Roger Wade elevate the experience to present as one of the best; casting was clearly a focus as even a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime makes one of his earliest appearances on film as one of Augustine’s goons. Philip “Marlboro Man” Marlowe, a wonderful nickname from Wade, instantly endears us with his combination of reckless loyalty and knowing smartassery. Any humor outside of Marlowe feels supplementary but not unnecessary, as these touches are what setbthe atmosphere apart from simple comedy. A scene like Marlowe's return to Mexico with a background of dogs "playing" with each other, for instance, feels effortlessly natural in a way that makes the already strong script feel fluent rather than contrived in any way, especially considering its intentional departure from its source material. Inconsistent cinematography is perhaps the film’s only weakness, as its presentation can feel jagged when joined with the narrative’s already natural fluidity as well as the naturally progressing narrative shifts. The conclusion only adds depth to an already engrossing story, feeling more like a tangential flourish than a conclusive wrap-up. Mentioning Sterling Hayden’s performance again is natural, as his brilliancy is immediately apparent, but builds with each of his scenes. The role feels built for him, but every emotion he portrays feels obvious yet subtle in its detail and the script decorates his energy vividly. The Long Goodbye is a graceful, sometimes provocative but largely gratifying cinematic experience.