Sunday, 27 February 2011

Film Review - The Long Goodbye

Out of all the movies shown I enjoyed Robert Altman’s ‘The Long Goodbye’ the most. My initial thoughts whilst watching the film were occupied with counting how many cigarettes the main character Philip Marlowe could light in such a short space of time, however, after concentrating more on the story I found myself drawn in. The story itself, that of a chain-smoking private detective trying to find the true story behind his best friends wife’s murder, is captivating in a typical ‘who-dun-it’ way, the audience are left curious and their interest is held. However, the story was not the element that held my interest; the camera movements and the music were a key part to the film’s success; the music being the same song ‘The Long Goodbye’ being repeated in a range of styles and tempos, each suiting the particular scene perfectly. The detail in the movie is vital; the camera is constantly moving, picking up on tiny details that would otherwise go ignored, and picking up bizarre background scenes such as that of the two dogs humping upon Marlowe’s arrival in Mexico which the camera focuses on for at least 5 seconds which appears odd seeing as the camera rarely settles on one point throughout the film. 

The camera is very important for drawing the audience in; we see things from Marlowe’s perspective, therefore we only know what’s happening once Marlowe does, such as in the scene where Marlowe is talking with Eileen Wade by a window, the. scene focuses on their conversation whilst through the window we see Eileen’s drunk husband stumble towards the sea, anticipation builds as we wait for Marlowe and Eileen to spot the disaster waiting to happen outside then the desperate race to save his life. This allows us to empathise with Marlowe’s character, we sit looking in on the scene as though we are there waiting desperately for the characters to realise what is about to happen the anticipation which is created in those few tense moments.

From reading other film reviews of ‘The Long Goodbye’ I found a quote that I found very interesting; “[Robert Altman] pokes fun at it at every junction. Marlowe often speaks the way we’d expect a movie hero to, and so do his adversaries. The gatekeeper at the Malibu community offers stunning imitations of quintessential movie stars, ranging from Jimmy Stewart to Cary Grant by way of Walter Brennan. And part of the theme is Richard Whiting’s Hooray for Hollywood – the other part being a single John Williams song, performed in umpteen different arrangements. It’s Altman’s way of saying: ‘Here’s a film-noir type detective story, set in Los Angeles in the 1970’s. Go figure.’”
 It’s true that the main character lives a wealthy lifestyle in a lavish gated community, however, there is no glamour in this film, there is no sign of excess, snobbery, whatever location the main character finds himself in be it the county jail or an expensive beach front house, he remains the same
I feel that the music throughout the film is key to expressing the mood of the scene, we feel what they feel, the music changes depending to setting as well, proving environment is important for the music and that all factors are interlinked. The recent Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz used sound as her medium. Her work is based on more than just a good singing voice, the way Philipsz sites recordings of her voice is as much to do with place as sound placing speakers under bridges and across lakes which are a much more suitable location than an empty room in Tate Britain, as the setting encapsulates the emotions of the songs. This links as it shows locations as well as music choice have a strong effect on expressing the mood of a scene.

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