Quick-Thoughts: Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973)

Okay, so let’s say God didn’t make me the protagonist of every stinkin’ life story and one to dance its authority about at every sector of disparate culture I run into. Say God didn’t give a nobody like me a slick, noir-charming presence to really turn out engaging phrases that imply utmost purpose and meaning amongst the most demanding scenarios. Fine, I can compromise that myself in my own little cool-cat head with off-the-top match lights, and all cares told “so long!”, and where the rules of the sense I make are entirely on me. Say even God blessed me though with a habit to stay out of trouble in my sane daily to-dos by warping the language I speak in any encounter I have with someone who isn’t quite like me, therefore blocking all possible escalations into intimate futures. So be it, but I can tell you for certain that it won’t be too far before that code cracks a little once my ego for moral (and a bit of general) superiority is finally put to the test.  

It’s funny how in a bro-mantic Ryan Gosling day-in-age where troops of male nincompoops (like me) are trying to connect their personalities and shortcomings to the romanticized, borderline psychopathic, and of course handsome yet somehow also virtually invisible odd-bird protagonists, that in 1973 Robert Altman was doing it self-awaringly via his main character: a private investigator who seems so badass for supposedly never having a care in the world until he publicly keeps pushing his concerns regarding how outsiders have affected him, thus proving that all the care in the world had just been building up since the beginning. It’s staggering too how Altman can multitask an unpredictable and riveting mystery all while insightfully lingering on the aimless features of the surface story through his manipulative visual techniques that help fabricate the most appropriate atmosphere amidst its boy-go-home lead, something so often overlooked in cinematic investigative thrillers that have become normalized and accepted upon with one-note yet ambiguously nosey and self-important protagonists. In The Long Goodbye though: oh, I’m not the main character of this here story? Well, watch me, haters. If I’ve swelled to be bothered, sooner or later, it’s gonna eventually happen. Every facade will become clear as day. 

Also, I find it remarkable how Mark Rydell is only in two scenes during this entire film and is now capable of being recalled by me whenever I think back on who my favorite performances for an antagonist are. You gotta love a force that functions under perfectly generic villain-esc circumstances who can still manage to make themselves a real presence to watch.

Verdict: A+

All-Time Favorites, Robert Altman Ranked

“The Long Goodbye” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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