The Long Goodbye

December 4, 2012


Noir films have a certain sensation about them, where too much investment in the effort creates predictability, and a repellant and detachment from the film observer. Indeed, good noir depictions do not try to work within the theme at all. The only connected dots between the treatment and the genre is simply a story involving the police.


Elliot Gould plays an exceptional character in Mr. Marlowe. As the protagonist makes or breaks the center stage in this genre, Mr. gould’s balance is extraordinary. We do not see a fatigued exertion into the machismo. Yet we also do not see a man who finds the story he is in to be overtly melodramatic, as if he is aware of the director’s efforts to film.


Thus the absence of apathy seen on his face is commendable. As the engine in the story – by necessity – we see an emotional commitment in the shifting gears. Often times we will have a sense that “gumshoes” roll their eyes at the malaise that their clients put themselves into. Here, however, we have a sincerity with Mr. Gould’s effort – almost a conviction that his cause his noble in itself. This is in sharp contrast with poorer efforts in the genre which would paint the detective using the same color palette as the scenery.


And the scenery is not terribly asymmetric to the main character. This is not a hopeless world, in other words, where it would be easier to flood it and start anew. The characters and their lives which breathe life into every frame do not have a sense of decadence or decay about them. The main current in the film is indeed caused by immorality, but we do not see a city of sinners where this is a frequent happenstance. In fact, as one character drowns himself in the Pacific, we have a community of onlookers, distressed, look out into the darkness of the sea, the same night he passes on. This catastrophe is communally felt. It is abnormal. Teams of police come in, scuba gear in tow. The setting is one in which we ourselves would inhabit.


Thus a golden mean between sleuthing and the underbelly of every story such as this, and the normalcy of society, is cleverly accomplished. The pacing is such that we rarely have time to contemplate the inner nature of Marlowe; neither are we scratching our heads in the who-dun-it. The film flows like a gentle creek, which eventually arrives at a sudden, but small, jaded rock, at its ending.


What to make of it? There are men who enjoy their job. And there are men who enjoy justice in the world. And they are not mutually exclusive.


Grade: B


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