The very embodiment of 70’s Hollywood genre revisionism, Robert Altman’s film of The Long Goodbye stands as one of his most accessible, wittily misanthropic films, and probably the finest performance of Elliot Gould’s career to date.
A warning for Raymond Chandler purists: you probably won’t like this film. Altman and screenwriter Leigh Brackett had quite a task in adapting Chandler’s second-last novel to the screen, for in it the “knight errant” Philip Marlowe comes over more like a prudish sap. Altman and Brackett have streamlined the narrative, removed peripheral characters, and – crucially – transformed Marlowe into a murkier, more comically ambiguous protagonist. In Altman´s and Gould´s hands, Marlowe is laconically relaxed, murmuring, alternately amused and annoyed at the world. Like Chandler´s hero, he is an outsider, a spectator, everywhere he goes. Unlike the literary Marlowe, Gould´s character seems washed up on the shores of an unfamiliar land, his nobility as crumpled and stale as his suit.
Along for the ride are the archetypal Chandler villains and victims: self-hating celebrities, young wives trapped in loveless marriages, crooked doctors, low-rent psychopathic gangsters, bored cops, flunkies lost out of time. Typically, the milieu Marlowe moves in range from the affluence of the Malibu Colony to the cells of the County Jail. Altman, however, wishes to make a film in and about 1973; the film is shot through with the psychic reverberations of the end of hippiedom and the remoteness of the “Me Generation”.
Another Altman touch is his openly expressed contempt for Hollywood and its conventions. As if to acknowledge the artificiality of a private detective story in the midst of 1970s Los Angeles, the film is suffused with jokey references to cinema. Bookended with “Hooray for Hollywood”, the film shows gatekeepers impersonating movie stars, characters changing their names for added class, hoods enacting movie clichés simply because that´s where they learnt to behave. Even Marlowe himself refers to the artifice when talking to the cops: “Is this where I´m supposed to say ‘What´s all this about?’ and he says ‘Shut up, I ask the questions’?”.
As for the supporting cast, Sterling Hayden shines out as the beleaguered novelist Roger Wade. There is more than a touch of Hemingway in Hayden´s bluff, blustering, vulnerable old hack. Baseball champ and sportscaster Jim Bouton is casually mysterious as Marlowe´s friend Terry Lennox, laugh-in alumnus Henry Gibson is suitably greasy as Dr. Verringer, actor/director Mark Rydell (best known for On Golden Pond) is convincingly chilling as gangster Marty Augustine, and Nina van Pallandt lends a dignified, defiant pathos to her role as Eileen Wade.
Special note must be made of Vilmos Zsigmond´s tremendous photography, employing his early “flashing” style of exposure to lend Los Angeles a suitably sultry, bleached-out aura. Also deserving attention is John Williams´ ingeniously minimalist score. Comprised solely of pseudo-source music, the score is a myriad of variations on a single song, appearing here as supermarket muzak, there as a party singalong, elsewhere as a late night radio tune.
The film´s controversial ending is utterly antithetical to Chandler´s vision. The message from Altman, however, is loud and clear: Chandler´s world no longer exists – if indeed it ever did.
Auteur Theory Stooge, 20 de Agosto de 2004
O User Reviews do IMDB costuma contar com algumas boas contribuições ao entendimento/interpretação de um filme, ainda que a grande maioria dos comentários não passe de bajulação descarada ou desprezo infundado. A resenha acima foi extraída de lá, ilustrando uma boa intervenção.
Abaixo um trecho do texto – o primeiro e último parágrafo – que Roger Ebert escreveu a respeito de Thieves Like Us (Renegados até a Última Rajada, 1974), que poderia ser estendido à boa parte da sua filmografia, incluindo Um Perigoso Adeus, lançado no ano anterior.
Like so much of his work, Robert Altman´s Thieves Like Us has to be approached with a certain amount of imagination. Some movies are content to offer us escapist experiences and hope we´ll be satisfied. But you can´t sink back and simply absorb an Altman film; he´s as concerned with style as subject, and his preoccupation isn´t with story or character, but with how he´s showing us his tale. That´s the case with Thieves Like Us, which manages a visual strategy so perfectly controlled that we get an uncanny feel for this time and this place.
Altman´s comment on the people and time is carried out through the way he observes them; if you try to understand his intention by analyzing the story, you won´t get far. Audiences have always been so plot-oriented that it´s possible they´ll just go ahead and think this is a bad movie, without pausing to reflect on its scene after scene of poignant observation. Altman may not tell a story better than anyone, but he sees one with great clarity and tenderness.
Minha singela contribuição
De minha parte, restam alguns momentos (favoritos) que estabelecem a grandeza do filme:
- a cena de abertura, relativamente longa, de uma fluidez admirável, em que Elliot Gould contracena com um gato. O tempo moroso que será adotado em todo o filme encontra o timing perfeito na encenação lânguida do protagonista, contrastante com o ritmo acelerado adotado nos melhores thrillers de espionagem (envolvendo detetives);
- a edificação que serve de locação para o apartamento de Philip Marlowe, que divide o andar com uma amostra estereotipada feminina bem humorada da comunidade hippie de então, com uma vista singular da Los Angeles dos anos 1970;
- as duas intervenções do gângster Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell), que leva as cenas ao inesperado/absurdo, rompendo de forma súbita com a letargia herdada do protagonista. A primeira delas, em especial, pega o espectador desprevenido (ao quebrar a garrafa no rosto da modelo);
- a cena da morte do escritor Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden) na praia, captada quase que por acaso pela câmera de Vilmos Zsigmond, durante uma conversa entre Marlowe e Eileen Wade;
- as diversas formas encontradas por Marlowe para acender um cigarro (ele fuma em todas as cenas);
- o carro de Philip Marlowe, saído da Los Angeles dos anos 1930 para a Los Angeles dos anos 1970.