By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 6, 2014)
The Long Goodbye – Kino Video Blu-ray
If there is something vaguely familiar about the shambolic anti-hero of Robert Altman’s 1973 L.A. noir, it’s because he was clearly the inspiration for the protagonist in the Coen Brothers’ 1998 film, The Big Lebowski (at least that’s my theory). Granted, the “Dude” is a purely circumstantial “detective” who becomes embroiled in a complex mystery, and Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) is an actual shamus…who becomes embroiled in a complex mystery.
But both characters are wise asses, which tends to land them in hot water. Yet both also share a kind of Zen philosophy that helps them land on their feet. Gould’s Marlowe slouches his way through Altman’s slyly arch reinvention of the stock Raymond Chandler milieu with a bemused detachment, denoted by a shrug and a mumbled catchphrase that he repeats throughout the film (“It’s OK with me.”).
Leigh Brackett’s screenplay is rich in characterization; which is a good thing, because the plot is byzantine to the point of self-parody (which I’m sure was the intent). The great supporting cast includes Sterling Hayden, Nina van Pallandt and Henry Gibson. Director Mark Rydell (Cinderella Liberty, The Reivers, On Golden Pond) makes a rare acting appearance (and steals all his scenes) as a sadistic gangster.
Kino Video’s Blu-ray transfer, while on the grainy side, is still a marked improvement over MGM’s DVD. Extras include a session with Altman and Gould recalling the making of the film, and an interesting segment with the great cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond.