Altman brushed away the trudging melancholy of the source material and drilled in to its overarching streak of fractured nonsense -- Marlowe as a mumbling, bitter, sarcastic man out of time, barely registering the surreal non sequiturs surrounding him. Altman was ingenious to take the irony-adjacent cynicism of Raymond Chandler's noir and infuse it to bursting point with burn-out, post-hippie, unambiguous irony.
I watched this before long time ago but I couldn't remember the plot & the characters. But I always had & have in mind (1) the absolutely cool & in every scene chain smoking Elliot Gould (2) the woman's Coke bottle smashed nose scene which is disgusting (3) the lovely theme song "The Long Goodbye" performed in numerous, different versions throughout the movie. The rest is an ordinary but solid detective story.
Kubrick famously asked Altman how he knew the shot of McCabe lighting his cigar in the snow was the right one; this 1973 film has many moments like those: not just the beautiful flash of the match being struck, but movements to which the camera has a perfect affinity: yoga contortions, squinting eyeballs, violent projections, cat walks. It'd be 5 stars silent, something more with those signature sound experiments
Simply fabulous camerawork throughout. You pretty much know this is Altman within the first 15 mins of the film, featuring trademarks noted in other films like MASH and McCabe...Gould plays Marlowe like Newman played his PI Harper, i.e. cool as a fuckin' cucumber. Have the source novel on the shelf, but havent gotten around to reading it yet. Will be interesting to see how true the film is to Chandlers novel. 4 stars
Superbly modernised synthesis of seemingly disparate elements (Chandler in the 1970s) executed with subtle panache dressed-up in an ambling style. The level of visual detail alone calls for repeated viewings. One of Altman's finest (even allowing for the ending) and indeed a good example of the short-lived grown-up period for Hollywood between the relaxation of censorship and the juvenile pap post-Star Wars.
Bogart's Marlowe in The Big Sleep was so serious, so impeccably rehearsed, that it all felt silly to me. This film had the exact opposite effect, Gould's Marlowe is so human in every line, in every awkward movement, that I seriously cared what would happen to him... and his cat. I bet that cat got a lot of "chat fatale" roles after that. A perfect film.