Date: 21 Aug 2003


Re your comments below:

> In addition, you have repeatedly said the Altman
> showed contempt for the
> material. Where is your evidence? You criticize
> Terrill for making a
> crack about ethics police, tell him there's no need
> to be saracastic,
> but is it any better to be dismissive without
> evidence, as you are?

Aside from the evidence of the movie itself, which should make Altman's attitude obvious on its face, Altman's comments, that Marlowe is a loser, that he wanted to put Marlowe to rest for good, certainly indicate a contempt for the character. And since that character is possibly the most archetypal character in the genre, his contempt for the genre is a reasonable inference.

> Is an exploration of a genre which includes
> questioning its continued
> viability necessarily contemptuous or an insult?

It was a movie, not a master's thesis. The point was to tell a story. That's the point of any genre piece.
 If it's no longer viable as a genre, people will no longer listen (or watch, or read) the story.

As for the private eye genre still being valid or
"relevant" at the time Altman made the film, well, of course it was, at least in terms of public acceptance.
 Films like HARPER, MARLOWE, GUNN, SHAFT, et. al., released in the years immeidately preceding TLG, and films like CHINATOWN, THE DROWNING POOL, FAREWELL MY LOVELY, et. al., relased in the years immediately following TLG, are evidence that the private eye story still had an audience. And that's just in movies. Parker's Spenser started around this time in prose. THE ROCKFORD FILES and HARRY O started around this time on TV. There was no "need" for a film that deconstructed the genre in order to revitalize it.

Altman, instead of using the film medium to tell Chandler's story, used Chandler's story to criticize the genre. If he wanted to criticize the genre, he didn't have to use Chandler's novel as a vehicle.
> I'd say any genre
> needs to be examined in order to stay vital. Was
> Altman's McCabe and
> Mrs. Miller a contemptuous insult to the western
> genre it explored?

Genres stay vital by continuing to tell stories well. That's the ONLY way they stay vital. And yes, M&MM was a contemptuous insult to the western.
> Also, you're putting it all on Altman. What about
> Leigh Brackett? Yes,
> Altman's films are highly improvisational, but they
> have scripts. And
> the script for The Long Goodbye was written by Leigh
> Brackett, the
> co-scripter of Big Sleep and writer of the
> Chandleresque No Good from a
> Corpse.

I've already commented on Brackett in another post.

> She wrote a very interesting essay (printed
> in Big Book of
> Noir) about the need for changes to the Marlowe of
> Big Sleep and gives
> the reasons for the specific ones they made in Long
> Goodbye. There is
> nothing to indicate she thought the latter film was
> an insult to
> Chandler or contemptuous of the genre. As a matter
> of fact, she ends
> the essay by saying:
> "In its first release, the film was greeted, by some
> critics, with the
> tone of outrage generally reserved for those who
> tamper with the Bible.
> This seems just a bit silly to me. I'm an old
> Chandler fan from way
> back, probably farther back than a lot of the
> critics. He was a
> powerful influence on my own work in those years.
> But I don't feel that
> any sacrilege was being committed. And I doubt that
> Chandler himself
> would have regarded every aspect of his work as Holy
> Writ.
> "I think he might even have liked Altman's versin of
> The Long Goodbye."
> Where is the contempt you so cavalierly proclaim?
> Is Brackett
> contemptuous of Chandler, Marlowe and the genre?

I think she knew, in her heart of hearts, that the critics who savaged the movie in its initial release were right, and was trying to sell herself, as much as anybody who read the essay, a bill of goods.


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