The Long Goodbye

With an opening fanfare of “Hooray for Hollywood,” Robert Altman's casually ironic, surprisingly apt adaptation casts Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe adrift in seventies Los Angeles, a place both real and unreal. Here everybody's playing a role, from the Malibu Colony gatekeeper with his Barbara Stanwyck impressions to Marlowe himself (Elliott Gould), who haplessly rehearses witty comebacks under his breath without noticing whether anyone's listening. Marlowe's contradictory mottoes are “It's OK with me” and “Nobody cares but me.” The latter sentiment lures him down from his tower apartment and its Panavision view to help a friend, and entangles him with Hemingwayesque author Sterling Hayden and his wife Nina Van Pallandt, who live in Malibu in the kind of glass house where the windows reflect rather than reveal. Hayden is washed up and eventually out, and Marlowe is left chasing an elusive Hollywood ending.

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