Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ten top adaptations

One of ten top adaptations tagged by Guardian and Observer critics:
The Long Goodbye

Robert Altman developed his version of The Long Goodbye as the story of "Rip van Marlowe" – what happens when the 1940s private dick is dropped into a 1970s Los Angeles he would barely recognize as home. Instead of Humphrey Bogart of The Big Sleep, he's now the unbuttoned, floppy-haired Elliott Gould. Instead of dealing with sharp-tongued women in pin curls and shoulder pads, he's working for a Malibu housewife in a big sun-dress and bare feet. By updating Marlowe's environment but not his personality, Altman reinvents the man for the 1970s, a detective whose wit and skills can't be diminished by a world far more corrupt than he.

Altman and screenwriter Leigh Brackett take immense liberties with Raymond Chandler's source novel, inventing entire characters (like the vicious Marty Augustine) and eliminating major ones, like Sylvia Lennox's billionaire father. Though Altman and Brackett borrow the basic structure of the novel, The Long Goodbye is essentially a riff on Chandler's entire work and his influence on film. It's a revisionist noir that manages to bring one of the genre's biggest icons in on its scheme, both thumbing its nose at and revering the beloved private detective.

Marlowe is hilariously out of step with his surroundings here, shuffling around his space-age apartment building and muttering at the hippie chicks doing yoga next door. But he's still the hero, the only man who cares enough to give Terry Lennox the justice he deserves, the guy who shrugs off a violent gangster to keep looking for his missing cat. The world has gone madder than Chandler ever imagined, but Marlowe proves he can stand the most difficult test of time – and he never has to give up his cigarettes or his 1948 Lincoln Continental to do it.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Long Goodbye is among Benjamin Black's five favorite works of noir, Melissa Albert's top four books that will drive all but the staunchest teetotaler to the nearest cocktail shaker, some Guardian readers' ten best writers in novels, David Nobbs's top five faked deaths in fiction, Malcolm Jones's ten favorite crime novels, David Nicholls' ten favorite film adaptations, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best fake deaths in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue