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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 10:47 am 
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It's kind of incredible how Hayden has seemingly influenced all of the neo noirs that have come since. His stuff has some precedent, if I remember right it is similar to a character from The Letter, but he clearly is the whole basis for the later stuff. Eric Roberts in Inherent Vice in particular seems cloned from him.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:32 pm 

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knives wrote:
It's kind of incredible how Hayden has seemingly influenced all of the neo noirs that have come since. His stuff has some precedent, if I remember right it is similar to a character from The Letter, but he clearly is the whole basis for the later stuff. Eric Roberts in Inherent Vice in particular seems cloned from him.


If I recall correctly, Hayden wrote (or ad-libbed) much of of his own dialogue for the film.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:47 pm 
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Since this is based on a Chandler novel I've never read, quick question: wasn't Hayden trying to play a Hemingway type in this? And if so, is that how it's written in the book or was that just Hayden's/Altman's doing?


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 2:36 pm 
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Wikipedia claims that Chandler based Roger Wade more on Chandler himself than on Hemingway, in the novel at least. The movie does seem to be going for more of a Hemingway vibe, what with the suicide and all (Chandler's novel predates Hemingway's suicide by about 8 years, fwiw). The movie is based only very loosely on the novel.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 7:33 pm 
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AfterTheRain wrote:
If I recall correctly, Hayden wrote (or ad-libbed) much of of his own dialogue for the film.

Leigh Brackett was at pains to stress that a fair chunk of the film's dialogue was hers, although she gave Altman a huge amount of credit for some of the more memorable innovations. The whole business with the cat (and therefore the entire opening scene) was entirely an Altman/Gould creation, much of Hayden's dialogue was indeed improvised, and Brackett was as shocked as everyone else in the audience by the Coke bottle incident - more shocked, in fact, because she thought she knew what was around the corner of every scene - but she and Altman worked very closely together to ensure that while strict textual fidelity wasn't sacrosanct (can you imagine Altman working with someone fastidious like Paddy Chayefsky, who famously wrote it into his Altered States contract that Ken Russell wasn't to touch a word of his script?), they nonetheless agreed when it came to the sense of what they were doing. And certain key elements that are constantly credited to Altman - setting it in present-day California, Gould's casting, the ending - were in fact in place before he got involved, when it was conceived as a Brian G. Hutton project.

So while it's unquestionably an Altman film through and through (and how!), its genesis is somewhat knotty and complicated.

As for the significant divergences from the novel, a lot of those were for practical reasons. As Brackett explained, the novel takes place in two time periods: the then present (i.e. the 1950s), with flashbacks to a decade earlier. So you basically have two choices: either make it a period drama, which whacks the budget way up, or update it to the present (and Chandler was, after all, writing in the present), which means ditching all the WWII stuff. And casting Elliott Gould also dictated a certain approach - as screenwriter of The Big Sleep, Brackett spoke with considerable authority when she said that while he's a terrific actor, he isn't Humphrey Bogart, and nothing he can conceivably do is ever going to make him bear even the faintest resemblance to Humphrey Bogart. So a surprising number of the film's more adventurous ideas were dictated more by situational and contractual circumstance than eccentric whim.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 7:37 pm 
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The whole business with the cat is the whole movie as far as I'm concerned.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 9:03 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
As for the significant divergences from the novel, a lot of those were for practical reasons. As Brackett explained, the novel takes place in two time periods: the then present (i.e. the 1950s), with flashbacks to a decade earlier. So you basically have two choices: either make it a period drama, which whacks the budget way up, or update it to the present (and Chandler was, after all, writing in the present), which means ditching all the WWII stuff. And casting Elliott Gould also dictated a certain approach - as screenwriter of The Big Sleep, Brackett spoke with considerable authority when she said that while he's a terrific actor, he isn't Humphrey Bogart, and nothing he can conceivably do is ever going to make him bear even the faintest resemblance to Humphrey Bogart. So a surprising number of the film's more adventurous ideas were dictated more by situational and contractual circumstance than eccentric whim.

I feel like it would be fair to credit the Elliott Gould character to Altman in the first place, though, at least the affect he has here- his sort of bombed out sweetness and tolerance, combined with a hard edge hidden within, is what makes the movie work as well as it does, and I haven't seen that version of Gould exist outside of Altman's movies (whereas I have seen Altman pull that kind of character out of other actors.) The whole movie has a sort of narcotized affect that works with the script to create a Southern Californianess that envelops it, pulls you into the world of it rather than just having you watch people who exist within it, and pushes you towards a sort of lassiez-faire complicity that makes Marlowe's friend's actions easier to brush off, and thus makes Marlowe's (morally justifiable) execution of him that much more shocking. I think, in the best Altman sense, you wind up with a series of collaborations that come together to make something really astonishing out of what could, had any of the elements of it failed, been laughably awful.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 9:30 pm 
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I'm in the middle of an Altman retrospective as I read the Mitchell Zuckoff oral biography and just finished this film. I've owned the MGM DVD since it came out 15 (15!) years ago, but this is the first time I watched it and really connected with the film. Altman, during this period, is such a master at sustaining a somber, vaguely threatening mood and punctuating it with sharp, shocking bursts of violence. He does this in McCabe and Images and this film—three very different films but with a similar feeling between them. I imagine the collaboration with Vilmos Zsigmond on each of these contributes in at least a small way. Certainly the constantly prowling and zooming camera here—something that used to really irritate me about this film but which I really love now—contributes to the mood. That shot of Sterling Hayden arguing with Nina van Pallant while Gould, stumbling in the surf, is reflected in the window! A pity Altman and Zsigmond stopped working together after this film.

Sterling Hayden is fantastic in this. I think his portrayal of Wade was probably somewhat personal for him. According to the bio, he was an alcoholic and, trying to stay off the bottle, virtually smoked his weight in hash during the making of this film. Mark Rydell is another actor in the film who rewrote most of his part (to his great credit). Altman encouraged this of all his actors. He absolutely hated scripts that sounded like the voice of a single writer speaking through multiple characters.

And now on to Thieves Like Us, which I've never seen.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 9:48 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
can you imagine Altman working with someone fastidious like Paddy Chayefsky, who famously wrote it into his Altered States contract that Ken Russell wasn't to touch a word of his script?
Ring Lardner Jr. was legendarily aghast at what Altman did to his script forM*A*S*H. It didn't stop him from accepting the Oscar for it, but he later regretted that he did not allow Altman a co-writing credit.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 9:52 pm 
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By contrast, Leigh Brackett seems to have been delighted with how the film turned out - the only thing that annoyed her was people like Pauline Kael giving Altman credit for every single idea while barely acknowledging her input.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 9:54 pm 
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Ha, that's ironic, given her perverse belief that Herman Mankiewicz deserved more or less all the credit for Kane


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 10:04 pm 
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Matt wrote:
Sterling Hayden is fantastic in this. I think his portrayal of Wade was probably somewhat personal for him. According to the bio, he was an alcoholic and, trying to stay off the bottle, virtually smoked his weight in hash during the making of this film
Just last week, I watched the Pharos of Chaos doc with Hayden on the Asphalt Jungle blu, and it felt like a natural for a double feature with The Long Goodbye.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 10:48 pm 
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Matt wrote:
I'm in the middle of an Altman retrospective as I read the Mitchell Zuckoff oral biography and just finished this film. I've owned the MGM DVD since it came out 15 (15!) years ago, but this is the first time I watched it and really connected with the film. Altman, during this period, is such a master at sustaining a somber, vaguely threatening mood and punctuating it with sharp, shocking bursts of violence. He does this in McCabe and Images and this film—three very different films but with a similar feeling between them.

He also keeps the audience on edge by punctuating his films with moments of goofy humour, and I think McCabe & Mrs Miller and The Long Goodbye are great examples of this. The tonal volatility of his films is one of his secret weapons, and something few other American directors have risked. 3 Women is another great example of all this, and it's otherwise a very different film to those two. Sometimes it's like he's playing two melodies alongside one another (e.g. horror and comedy), creating a dissonance that simply becomes the atmosphere of the film, and it's only when those moments of punctuation occur - the gag, or the assault - that you feel like the film is committing to one genre or the other, though it almost certainly isn't, and will straightaway slip back into tension and ambiguity. I think that's a trick that's apparent in all his most successful films, now that I think about it.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:20 am 
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swo17 wrote:
The whole business with the cat is the whole movie as far as I'm concerned.

Honestly it and Hayden are all I really remember.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:35 pm 
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And now for a different perspective, as this is one of my least-favorite Altmans. For me the central issue I have with the film is that unlike Kiss Me Deadly, where Aldrich utterly undermines the source text while still producing an exemplar of noir in addition to a cogent critique, the Long Goodbye is so far removed from Chandler and Gould's perf is sooooooooo far from Marlowe that I fail to see the point, other than that it comes off as false superiority (a problem with a lot of Altman movies). I think Gould's shtick can work-- California Split is my second-favorite Altman, so I'm not immune to his charms-- but lord does it rub me the wrong way here. Even a flawed film like Marlowe with James Garner in the title role, which also took a comic approach to the character, at least still had some sense of purpose to its peculiar portrayal of the central figure. Fundamentally, I don't think Altman's approach is right for this material, and unlike in say Kiss Me Deadly, his alternate take isn't better or more interesting than the base material it's tweaking

That said, I do enjoy Hayden's Hemingway impression here, an easy highlight of a film for me and something we can break bread on, it sounds like!


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:44 pm 
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Honestly I'm not sure if the film is trying to be Marlowe or Chandler or any of that. At least I've never took it as being interested in the source material in any real way. It's more of a generic crime film told in Altman's world. It's more comparable to California Split than The Big Sleep is what I mean (which isn't intended to sleight Bracket's contributions since she seemed all for that).


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:46 pm 
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Which, if so, begs the question why adapt and play with Chandler and the Marlowe mythos at all if you have nothing to say about it? To me it just comes off as another ill-conceived counter cultural upending of something the then-current youth generation's parents enjoyed-- this ain't your father's Marlowe! You can also see this in the Mad Magazine-styled ad campaign inked by Jack Davis as well


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:50 pm 
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For money. Chandler and Marlowe are big names and probably added to the box office. That's not a unique thing at all. Plus if the bare bones for the plot work for the things you want to add why not? I don't see anything counter culture about the movie at all to be honest.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:27 pm 
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No, at base - and Brackett emphasised this - it's surprisingly traditional.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:28 pm 
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Traditional to/of what?


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:33 pm 
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The aim seems to have been to upend a perceived shallowness of Hollywood in general and film noir in particular, which okay, but Chandler's novel is already a pretty brutal attack on the shallowness of much of American life itself in the 1950s. A few tweaks to the story (which Chandler himself already tweaked from THE GREAT GATSBY, I've always thought) could have brought it into the 1970s very handily. Altman's satire is rather hit or miss (with Gould's boobish Marlowe being among the chief misses for me). There's an imbalance between the snarkiness of those little jokes and the more genuine NOIR aspects of the story, and sometimes it works (as when a particularly brutal gangster invites everyone to show how they've got nothing to hide by actually taking off all of their clothes) and sometimes it doesn't (a series of encounters between Marlowe and an overly stupid thug). But despite some very fine moments and performances it just leaves me with a shrug. Altman manages some very witty updates on Raymond Chandler's 1950s characters and situations, but ultimately it all just feels rather glib and facile. That's really about all there is to it.

I'm reminded of the first two versions of THE MALTESE FALCON, where the novel's serious tone is replaced with a smirky pre-Code wink wink nudge nudge, and were both eclipsed by Huston's more straightforward dramatic take on Hammett. I'd give a lot to have seen Huston's take on THE LONG GOODBYE.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 7:54 pm 
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I think part of what the film does is mix ideas (however fictional) of 1953 and 1973 to reveal things about both. Similar to Point Blank, a conventional noir protagonist (though Marlowe is a bit wackier and more mumble-y than Bogart/Mitchum/Marvin types) is juxtaposed against a contemporary society that he is ill-quipped to deal with. In Boorman's film, this is shown via Marvin's actual age and post-war trauma as well as details like his insistence on cash when the corporations uses the more abstract currency of credit.

In The Long Goodbye, Marlowe is an outcast because of his refusal to be a part of both counter-cultural activities (his neighbors) and of traditional life and work (an office, getting married, etc.) and the ultimate expression of this is in his absolute moral decision (the murder of Terry Lennox) in what seems to be an amoral contemporary society. The act has no pragmatic purpose (Lennox has already gotten away with it and killing him wont fix anything), but it is an affirmation of Marlowe's moral universe where people who commit crimes get punished, even if they're your friends. Classic noir often has the idea that the world is a more corrupt and messy place than the protagonist and, ostensibly, the audience realized. Even when criminals are punished for their actions, the conclusions come in shades of grey and/or tragedy (Out of the Past, Gun Crazy, Double Indemnity). The Long Goodbye recontextualizes this idea with a surprising (theoretically, to a cynical post-Watergate society and audience) ending of Marlowe reinstating some resemblance of a moral order to the universe, an imposition of black-and-white on a hazy sea of grey. I'd need to re-see the movie to expand on this (and my last argument might be a little sketchy, I'm not sure) but that's the general idea.



On an unrelated note, I can't help but see the second verse of Belle and Sebastian's "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" as a reference to this film à la "Like Dylan in the Movies":
Quote:
Dear catastrophe girlfriend
I'm sorry if he hit you with a full can of Coke
It's no joke
Your face is bleeding
You'll soon be leaving this town to the clowns who worship
No one but themselves


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2017 6:09 am 
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domino harvey wrote:
Traditional to/of what?

Leigh Brackett was firmly convinced that the film has a lot more in common with The Big Sleep than seemed apparent on the surface. She was in the unique position of having worked with Hawks/Bogart and Altman/Gould in the same capacity, and felt that there were far more similarities than differences.

For instance, one thing she stressed was that the "Altman touches", the more satirical elements, actually had nothing to do with the structure or the basic characters: they were just little ornaments and curlicues on top. At base, to quote Brackett herself, Marlowe is:

Quote:
an innocent man, he’s a decent man, he’s an honest man. He’s the honest man who always gets screwed because he believes everybody else is honest, and he trusts his friends, and he got taken for a ride, and he got mad.

And she elaborated:

Quote:
We knew we were going to get flak, we knew we were, especially on the... Marlowe killing Terry because this was out of character for Marlowe. But it was out of character for the time when Marlowe was written: you couldn’t do that on the screen. No matter how right it might have been, you couldn’t do that. If you remember, he always had to sucker somebody else into doing the shooting. He’d get somebody to walk out a door knowing that somebody was out there ready to kill him and he’d get somebody else to walk out. You could do that, but you couldn’t do it - bang! And I thought it was... you know, here is a decent man who has trusted a friend and done him a favour and gotten himself... gotten his neck in the grease. He’s fallen in love with a woman who didn’t even know he was alive. She didn’t really betray him, she didn’t even know he was there. As he says, “I lost everything - I even lost my cat”. And you’re just not gonna get away with it! Which I thought would... well, it satisfied me. A lot of people thought we had taken undue liberties with the thing, because it wasn’t The Big Sleep over again.

Another challenge was that she knew upfront that Elliott Gould would be playing the lead, which demanded a different stylistic approach, even while trying to retain Marlowe's core virtues:

Quote:
I like Elliott Gould, I think Elliott Gould is one hell of an actor. But he is not Humphrey Bogart, and nothing under the sun you are going to do with him is going to make him look like Humphrey Bogart or act like him. And so you had to do a whole new character, which was the mumbling and the... we tried to keep as much as we could of the businesses with the cops and so on, we tried to keep as much as we could of either the original Chandler or what we thought Chandler might have done if he had been writing it now.

She's also very interesting on the character of Roger Wade, which was substantially altered simply because Sterling Hayden was cast at the last minute - the shooting script had been written with Dan Blocker in mind, but Altman sensed that Hayden would give a fundamentally different interpretation, and encouraged him and Gould to improvise:

Quote:
The suicide itself was in the script. It was in the... it was the way it was done in the book, behind the closed door, the bang, the guy blows his head off. Of course, I didn’t know at the time we were going to have the Malibu set, or I might have thought of it. I don’t say I would have thought of it, but I might have thought of it. It was pure Altman and it was purely magnificent. It was absolutely beautiful - just superb. But in those scenes between Marlowe and Roger I tried to build up the fact that [Roger] was suicidal and that he was sadistically punishing his wife, taking everything out on her, and that he was suicidal as well as alcoholic. And some of the... [Sterling Hayden] doesn’t speak the same language that Dan Blocker spoke, you know, the rhythm, everything’s all different, so a lot of the dialogue got changed just out of necessity. And Altman... I saw the full rough cut, and he put Gould and Hayden down in those chairs on the beach and just let them say whatever came into their heads. And part of it was fascinating, but it went on far too long, I thought. Now of course it was muchly cut in the theatre print, but I could have wished some of the scenes were a little tighter.

(The source for all the above was this lengthy audio interview.)


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 8:52 am 
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I've come to feel about Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE the same way I feel about Welles' THE TRIAL -- they're of considerable interest as major works from their directors, but don't go looking for fidelity to their source material. THE LONG GOODBYE isn't Chandler at all, sorry, but it is a hell of a lot of Altman, and that's a blessing (mainly) and a curse (yeah, sorry, a little).


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