Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 10th, 2014
BluRay released: December 16th, 2013
Approximate running times: 112 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £19.99
The Long Goodbye was directed by Robert Altman who’s other notable films include MASH, Nashville and 3 Women. The screenplay for The Long Goodbye was adapted from the Raymond Chandler of the same name by screenwriter Leigh Brackett who also wrote the big screen adaption for another Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep. The score for The Long Goodbye takes on a unique approach on piece of music that appears in various versions throughout the film. This title song was composed by John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars) and Johnny Mercer (‘Moon River’). Key collaborators on The Long Goodbye include Editor Lou Lombardo (The Wild Bunch) and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (The Deer Hunter, Blow Out).
By the late 1960’s with crumbling box office numbers due to the dwindling audience interest and the rise of television an alternative for seeking out entertaining the Hollywood system would allows filmmakers more freedom then they had ever had before or since. At the forefront of this creative revolution was a core of filmmakers most notably Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
Another filmmaking maverick from this era was Robert Altman whose film’s though not always initially critically praised or instant box office successes. In the years following their release many have gone onto to become acknowledge classic’s that define the era from which they were created. And unlike the other three filmmakers mentioned earlier it was no secret about Altman’s disdain for the Hollywood machine and it constrictive conventions. It is also this beat to his own drum that makes what he achieved in the 1970’s more impressive then any of his other contemporaries.
This brings us to The Long Goodbye a film whose source material was penned by Raymond Chandler and his novels served as the backdrop of many quintessential classic’s for which is now referred to as the film noir genre. But that was the 1940’s and now three decades later the cinema landscape has changed drastically so it is not surprising that Altman would give the film noir genre a dramatic makeover. Needless to say this is not that Phillip Marlowe that was brought to life by Humphrey Bogart, but then that is exactly the point!
Structurally there is nothing unusual about The Long Goodbye; in fact it is as straight forward narrative wise as any detective film that you will ever encounter. The protagonist Marlowe is given a simple task of clearing his name after a friend leaves him in a tight spot. Easy enough right, not exactly, this new slant on a familiar character has the protagonist kind of just drifting along as he in many instances stumbles upon the answers he seeks. Fortunately these changes in persona come off without a hitch since the film has a dreamlike quality. Also the way in which the film plays its protagonist out of place from the rest of those who he interacts with is arguably its most durable asset.
From a visual stand point Altman and his cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond a unique universe that is so utterly tangible that one easily forgets that they are watching cinema. Though they use familiar locations the way in which they employ soft focus cinematography brings new life to familiar haunts. Also there is a fluidity to the camera work that gives the feel as though the performances are being captured as they happened, instead of crafted to fit within the frame of any given composition. It should not come as a surprise for film that is so beautifully shot that there are numerous standout moments visually. Most notably a scene where a crime boss breaks a coke bottle over his mistresses’ face or the scene when Marlowe is first detained and he uses the ink from his fingerprints creatively in the sequence.
From a performance stand point the entire cast are truly exceptional, especially Elliott Gould (MASH, Who?) in the role of Marlowe. And it is easy to see why many consider this performance to be his greatest of his career. Other notable cast performances include the ever explosive Sterling Hayden (The Killing) in the role of an alcoholic writer and Mark Rydell (On Golden Pond) in the role of the aforementioned sadistic crime boss. Ultimately The Long Goodbye is an exceptional twist on a well revered genre that all culminates with a ending that will forever remain engrained in your brain.
The Long Goodbye comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Colors look vibrant and at times literally leap off the screen. The booklet included with this release includes a very detailed explanation about the transfer and the end result is exactly the way cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and Robert Atlman intended the film to look. The film has a deliberate soft / smoky look that at times makes some of the darker moments look a tad softer than the rest of the film. With that being said contrast and black levels look very good throughout. Colors and flesh tones look accurate and there are no issues with compression.
This release comes with two audio options, the first audio option a DTS-HD Mono mix in English and the second audio mix is a isolated music & effects track. Range wise considering the mono source all things sound very good as dialog always comes through clearly everything sound balanced and robust when they need too. Also it should be point out that there are some very mild instances of background noise. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include radio spots, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 30 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), five interviews, the first one is with actor Elliott Gould (53 minutes 5 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), the second interview is with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (14 minutes 23 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), the third interview is with David Thompson who discusses director Robert Altman (21 minutes 4 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), the fourth interview is with Tom Williams who discusses Raymond Chandler (14 minutes 29 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and the fifth interview is with Maxim Jakubowski who discusses Hard Boiled Fiction (14 minutes 33 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), a featurette about the film titled ‘Rip Van Marlowe’ (24 minutes 35 seconds – full frame / letterboxed widescreen) and a documentary about Robert Altman (56 minutes 32 seconds – full frame / letterboxed widescreen).
Topics discussed in the interview with Elliott Gould include how he was out of work for year and a half before being cast in The Long Goodbye, the film’s opening sequence, improvising, working with Robert Altman, the cast and how he approaches a role. Topics discussed in the interview with Vilmos Zsigmond include working with Robert Altman, cinematographers roles in the lighting of a film and the use of ‘flashing’ in this and other visual techniques employed in this film. Topics discussed in the featurette ‘Rip Van Marlowe’ include how this project came about, casting, the look of the film, the film’s score and the film’s promotional campaign and their thoughts on the final product.
Rounding out the extras are a reversible cover art and a collectable booklet with a new writing on the film by Brad Stevens, an archive interview with screenwriter Leigh Brackett, a new interview with assistant director Alan Rudolph and an American Cinematographer article discussing Zsigmond’s unique treatment of the film, illustrated with original archive stills and posters. Overall The Long Goodbye gets an exceptional release from Arrow Academy, highly recommended.