"No less than Streisand, whom he met when both were in the cast of the 1962 musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale (he starred in the show, she stole it), [Elliott] Gould was part of the ethno-vanguardâ€”Hollywood’s Jew Wave," writes J. Hoberman in the Village Voice. The occasion for the profile is Film Forum‘s week long booking of Robert Altman‘s great "The Long Goodbye," the best damn Raymond Chandler novel, and the best adaptation to be brought to screen (sorry, Mr. Hawks), even if it a deconstruction. Hoberman goes on:
Los Angeles 1973 is riven by real racial and class distinctions, yet fantasy is ubiquitous. As self-conscious as its star, The Long Goodbye is bracketed by the song "Hooray for Hollywood"â€”the bloozy theme jumps from car radio to supermarket Muzak to cocktail lounge piano to Mexican funeral bandâ€”and the characters habitually refer to each other as cartoon creatures. If, as ex-wife Streisand once suggested, Gould was the American Belmondo, The Long Goodbye is the closest Hollywood ever came to making its Breathless. Seldom has artifice seemed more spontaneous. The camera is in constant motion. Everyone acts as though they’re acting in a movieâ€”none more than Gould, whose improvised arrest scene culminates with his taunting the cops by smearing his face with fingerprint ink to sing Jolson‘s "Swanee."
Terrence Rafferty in the New York Times observes nicely that the film is "about transience, about the awful fragility of the things we want to think are built to last: friendships, marriages, faiths of all kinds â€” including the faith that pop culture can sometimes makes us feel in powerful fantasy figures like Marlowe and his jaunty, street-smart, superbly incorruptible ilk." He adds that "The movie manages to stylize an absence of style, the bland fluidity of early-â€™70s Southern California, the very thing that makes Marlowe obsolete." You’d think that "The Long Goodbye"’s bleached-out landscape of SoCal beach houses and its bumbling, ridiculous incarnation of Chandler’s cynical yet resolutely moral shamus would put a stake to the heart of any type of romantically corrupt portrait of the area, but there’s no slaying film noir. If you squint at its "Third Man"-style ending, you’ll see a new world of films that are romantically corrupt about being romantically corrupt arriving.
On that vague topic, over at the LA Times, Susan King, dwelling on American Cinematheque’s festival of Santa Monica-based noir films, delves into why Southern California, even in the 70s and beyond, is such an ideal setting for film noir:
Film noir historian Eddie Muller, who co-programmed the festival, says that one of the differences between New York and L.A. noir is that in the former, "the characters want to escape the big city, the teeming metropolis. In L.A., you get to the Promised Land and you realize there’s no escape. I find the most effective L.A. noirs are always set in places where there is an horizon, which you don’t see in New York noir."
As Paul Malcolm at the LA Weekly adds, "Call it hometown pride, but is there any doubt that Los Angeles reigns supreme as the most corrupt, most soul-crushing, most dream-devouring blight on the noir landscape?"
+ The Goulden Age (Village Voice)
+ A Gumshoe Adrift, Lost in the â€™70s (NY Times)
+ Film noir in a city of dreams (LA Times)
+ Noir City: Los Angeles Vs. New York: The Eighth Annual Festival of Film Noir (LA Weekly)