In adapting The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler, this is not so much the character of Philip Marlowe as referred to Robert Altman, but rather the metamorphosis of an America that lost its points of reference.
After the triumph of MASH (Palme d’or at Cannes in 1970) and the successive failures of Brewter McCloud (1970), John McCabe (1971) and Images (1972), THE PRIVATE sector was calibrated to change the situation and allow him to bounce at last. Its failure will be the perfect example of a great film, misunderstood, or rehabilitated with the time to the point of becoming a classic. Written by the author of science fiction Leigh Brackett (Rio Bravo, The Empire Against Attack), this new version of the world of Chandler is offering us a Marlowe has-been, outdated, out of step with his time. While the society undergoes profound social changes (we are at the beginnings of years 70), the detective remains committed to its values and to its old clunkers (a Lincoln Continental Convertible model 1948), as a symbol.
Lanky and almost burlesque in this crazy world, Elliott Gould is especially tasty (and cabotin), surrounded by a gallery of second role not toe any punches with the excuse of the little, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, David Carradine, Sally Field and Arnold Schwarzenegger ! Above all, the film is a (new) excuse for Altman to give free rein to his spirit vachard, and say all the evil he thinks of contemporary America. From the bawdy to the corruption, through the hypocrisy and latent violence that is spreading like a virus, the filmmaker wades in a plot convoluted, a pretext for a staged set up as the music paper. A MacGuffin totally assumed that surfs on a cynicism at the vitriole, the “trademark” of the filmmaker.
Between the two movements classy camera,”It’s okay with me” (” I balance “) float around in this world of oddities where the detective pulled out of another time (it was notably played by Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell and Robert Montgomery) observes laconically, the good, the gross, and crooks of all kinds. Between two smokes cannabis, and a few glasses of Whisky, here is a Los Angeles plagued by its own miasma and fantasies. For all that, and despite some excesses of brute violence, personified by the scene of the Coke bottle, Robert Altman does not start ever of his humour legendary. Bathed atmospheres illuminated by the famous Vilmos Zsigmond and music winding John Williams, THE PRIVATE broadcasts a melancholy fancy, a sweet melancholy where the finiteness of a certain mythology idealistic look into the eyes of a future anesthetized, under the influence.
Without be of the caliber of his greatest works, and films chorales (Nashville, A Wedding, Short Cuts, Prêt-à-Porter, Gosford Park, The Last Show) that he will be the master, THE PRIVATE sector remains a remarkable polar noir and hard boiled, bathed in white light, steeped in intelligence and eccentricities that confinaient to the disillusionment of its author.
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• Production : Robert Altman
• Screenplay : Leigh Brackett
• Main actors : Elliott Gould, Sterling Hayden
• Release Date : 1973
• Duration : 1h52min