RARA-AVIS: The various incarnations of The Long Goodbye

From: phred deVecca (frogprod@rcn.com)
Date: 19 Sep 2010

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    >rick helms said -

    >Gould missed the 'real' Marlowe by a country mile.

    >Elliot Gould shambles through the picture with all the determination of a stoned surfer boy. His only response to anything is "Okay with me, lady... okay with me.", which was an improvisation that Altman allowed him to perpetuate. This is not the insightful, deductive Marlowe who so cleverly unmasks Senor Maioranos in the book. This Marlowe deduces facts by stumbling over them, rather than by making shrewd connections between seemingly unrelated events.

    I'm not sure what I'm missing here. The film is all about friendship. The word "friend" is probably used more in the film than the now-famous phrase "It's alright with me." It's all about Gould's (and Altman's) Marlowe helping out a friend in need, and then covering for him when it looks like the friend is in trouble (to the point where he's - briefly -jailed), and finally killing that "friend" because he really wasn't a friend after all - and that, in Marlowe's world view, is the greatest sin of all.

    It's also about an unshakeable moral code and Marlowe stands by it despite being roughed up by the cops and Augustine. Where does he "shamble" He's firm and derfinite and he never falters on this issue. Doesn't it appear that the frequent "alright with me-s" is just the uncaring persona he puts on? He's in 70s-era LA surrounded by naked, stoned candle dippers after all. He clearly does not think exploiting a friendship is "alright with him." Jeez - what happened to our ability to see the unreliable narrator here?

    He's not a wimp - he's the one anchor of dedication to truth, and real friendship, in the film. Beneath his laid-back exterior manner, he really truly cares. And he's not weak in any sense. The only time I saw any fear in him was when Wade's dog barks and jumps on him a couple times. Otherwise he's strong and relentless.

    It's Marlowe, but it's Marlowe in the 70s, in a different world than Chandler's Marlowe lived in, but that's the whole point - despite the weirdly different world, Marlowe still has that consistent powerful moral code.

    Marlowe says (and here Iím depending on my increasingly aged and undependable memory) "You used me Terry," and Terry says "Thatís what friends are for." They continue - Terry says "Nobody cares Marlowe. Only you. And youíre a loser." Marlowe replies "Yeah, I even lost my cat," and then blows Terry away. Symmetrical, decisive, righteous, and stunningly brilliant writing by Leigh Brackett. Terry had faked his own death. He was legally already dead and one cannot be punished for killing a dead man.

    I don't see that as "stoned surfer boy" stuff. That's hard boiled.

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