Date: 21 Aug 2003


Re your comments below:

> I don't think Altman has ever made such a statement
> about THE LONG GOODBYE. I believe the mandate he was
> given by the studio and the producers was that he
> make "A Robert Altman FILM", which he did.

He made the statement by calling the film THE LONG GOODBYE, crediting Chandler with the source material, and naming the protagonist Philip Marlowe. All of that suggests a faithful adaptation, the director's reputation notwithstanding.

Moreover, in the only previous novel adaptation he'd done before GOODBYE (that I'm aware of, anyway), M*A*S*H, he WAS faithful to the spirit, if not the absolute letter, of Richard Hooker's book. And Richard Hooker ain't Chandler. So there was not necessarily a clue to his unwillingness to "play by anyone's rules" in his previous work.
> I'm not sure how Altman got around this supposed
> "obligation" and slipped past the "ethics" police to
> use his own creativity on this project and bring us
> one of the most original and interesting films of
> its era (and a fantastic time capsule to boot), but
> I'm sure glad he did.

There's no need to make snide remarks about the
"ethics police." The original question was an ethical one. Is an artist free to bring his own creativity to a work he adapts? I was attempting to answer that question. If you're glad that Altman felt free from the constraints of any obligation to the source material he purported to be adapting, so be it. If you feel ethics have no part in art, that's fine too. But the original question seemed to be an ethical one.
 There's no need to be sarcastic because I offered an opinion on an ethical question.

> It's certainly not a rare
> event when filmmakers don't "shoot the booK" (it's
> more often the case than not), . . .

They may not "'shoot the book,'" but, more often than not, they at least stay within the framework of the spirit, if not the letter, of the source material. Even SATAN MET A LADY was closer to the spirit of THE MALTESE FALCON than Altman's LONG GOODBYE was to Chandler's novel. And what really irritate me is that he strayed from the novel, not because of some overwhelming artistic vision, but because he clearly disliked the novel, the character, and the genre.

> And if you don't like his movie, you don't have to
> watch it.

I don't, and if you check the archives you'll see that I've refrained from comment on the film for the most part. Even here, my comment was less about the film, per se, than about a filmmaker's responsibility to the source material he's adapting, with Altman's film
(since that was the topic) used as an example of failing, deliberately failing, that responsiblity.

If Altman doesn't like the genre, and wants to show it up in all its bourgeois phoniness, fine. It doesn't mean he's ethically free (and his being an artist doesn't free him from the restraints of honor, ethics, or morality) to take someone else's work and trash it, under the guise of "adapting it," to make his point.

> It shouldn't be an insult that it exists.

You're right, it shouldn't be an insult. But it is. Moreover, it's a deliberate, calculated insult. Insulting the book, the character, the author, and the genre was Altman's entire purpose.

> As the pros always say, "He didn't ruin the book.
> It's still fine right there on the shelf."

And they always say that when the film DOES, in fact, ruin the book.


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