The Long Goodbye - Blu-ray Review

'a pulpy mystery at least as concerned with drinking as much booze as possible as it is with finding out the who, what, why, where and when'

As Oscar Isaac chases his own ginger tabby around in Inside Llewyn Davis, next week sees the Blu-ray release of a much earlier symbolic feline, from a film more concerned with soulful piano than it is with fashionable folk.

Robert Altman’s Raymond Chandler adaptation, The Long Goodbye, takes the writer's iconic detective Philip Marlowe and puts him in the shambling shoes of Elliot Gould, tasking him with a pulpy mystery at least as concerned with drinking as much booze as possible as it is with finding out the who, what, why, where and when.

First though, there’s the cat, designed to show us how Marlowe is teetering on the brink of mixing his priorities and how his ramshackle lifestyle is a wrong decision away from crashing down. Notably, when Marlowe takes the obvious wrong step of assisting a friend with brusied knuckles across the Mexican border, the cat is off to find an owner with more moral fortitude.

If this sounds too whimsical for a supposedly hard-boiled detective then perhaps that is part of The Long Goodbye’s problem. The film is a mixture of near-laughable floaty 1970s hippydom (the naked stoners Marlowe lives next door to, a comedy sequence where Marlowe is ‘followed’ by an inept mobster) and some really quite cold outcomes (the conclusion). In isolation both bits are fine but Altman attempts to mash them together ham-fistedly, jarring segments like the aforementioned comedy mobster again said mobster's friends, who have just glassed a young girl in the face, shown by Altman in slow-motion.

More crushingly to The Long Goodbye’s progress is an elongated central section, where Marlowe struggles to piece together how estate residents Eileen (Nina van Pallandt) and Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden) are related to his near-do-well friend. Dull segments spent attempting to control Roger's alcoholism add nothing and seem to take forever and the film slips into corny cliché ('you don't look like you're afraid of trouble'), which it can't afford.

Altman though has enough with the plot and Gould to largely keep his simple mystery afloat and interesting. Gould, in particular, is magnetic in a way few leads have ever or could ever be; dragging his feet around as though half asleep, wise-cracking to armed mobsters and mumbling to himself whenever he’s lacking an ear to fill full of his stream of consciousness. He’s the type of ludicrously fictional detective who picks up his ‘messages’ from a local bar keep then borrows his phone to acquire a new client. If that doesn’t charm you, despite the rest of the film’s flaws, then nothing will.

The Long Goodbye is out on new UK Blu-ray on Monday 16th December.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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