Tag Archives: Robert Altman

XL Popcorn – The Player

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 680/1007Title: The Player
Director: Robert Altman
Year: 1992
Country: USA

Well, it’s been an awfully long time since I watched a film as meta as The Player, or a Robert Altman film where I can understand the surrounding buzz. There are many places where The Player could have come undone, but thanks to the writing and direction it manages to be a biting meta-commentary on the Hollywood system that doesn’t succumb to self-flagellation or congratulation.

Whilst this is a good film on merit, it becomes an excellent film if you love films. I’m not just talking about the ridiculous number of cameos from the big stars of the early nineties, although those are cool. This is a film that is able to make smart use of Old Hollywood posters within the set decoration in order to provide an extra punch to the narrative. One that uses references to films like Sunset Boulevard and tracking shots to further enhance its meta nature.

Sure this film has some second act problems, but the beginning and its excellent ending more than make up for it. It’s also a fantastic central performance from Tim Robbins as the slimy film producer who has to deal with death threats from a writer whose calls he never returned.

I really wish I could go more into the ending and how it ties up with both the first minute of the film and the resolution of film that is being produced within the film, but I do abhor writing about spoilers – even if the film is 26 years old. Just trust me on this – even if, like me, you could see this cynical twist coming, they do it perfectly. Also, it’s worth watching this whole film just to see the awful ending of the film within a film which starts Julia Roberts (who is name checked at least ten times) and Bruce Willis.

This is meant to be a comedy, but it’s very much in a dark one. You won’t laugh out loud (apart from at Whoopi Goldberg’s scene at her detective desk, because that’s really funny) but you should be able to revel in this cynical self-referential world.

 

 

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XL Popcorn – The Long Goodbye

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 646/1007
Title: The Long Goodbye
Director: Robert Altman
Year: 1973
Country: USA

It’s always weird to see Elliot Gould in a serious role. To think that prior to being known to my generation as Jack Geller in Friends he was making films like MASH and The Long Goodbye. It’s also a trip to re-discover that he was once married to Barbra Streisand. The things you learn when listening to cinema history podcasts.

If the name Philip Marlowe, the protagonist of The Long Goodbye, rings any bells it’s because he is a character that has appeared in many films over the years. He is the hero of a number of pulp novels by Raymond Chandler and has been played by a number of actors including Robert Mitchum, Toby Stevens and Humphrey Bogart (in The Big Sleep).

As with The Big Sleep I had some degree of trouble with the pacing of The Long Goodbye. It goes for something that is complex, but does it in such a languid way that everyone feels like they’re either on drugs of succumbing to the California heat. Unlike The Big Sleep it was easier to understand the twists and turns of the storyline. It’s just that by the time you get to the end you wonder why you ever cared.

Then again, I wonder if that’s the point. After being given the runaround for a number of weeks Marlowe just seems mildly annoyed at the conclusion and is just happy to put an end to this case. I don’t blame him either and can completely get on board with him playing his harmonica in a carefree fashion after just killing someone.

One thing that The Long Goodbye does better than The Big Sleep is the character of Marlowe. Gould’s portrayal feels more rounded and realistic, which is mostly because of the first ten minutes where we see him doting on his cat who is very choosy about the brand of cat food they’ll eat. Also, Gould’s interaction felt more naturalistic and less ‘acted’ than Bogart’s… I guess I’m saying that I feel this is the superior performance.

However, one thing I did miss was a truly memorable secondary female character performance. There’s no Lauren Bacall or Martha Vickers here, just some cookie cutter tropes of women (and not many of them at that). It did deliver a good male secondary character in the form of a security guard who delights in impersonating stars of old Hollywood.

It’s an okay film, just not something I’d watch again… or really recommend.