Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Long Goodbye (1973)

WHO: Robert Altman directed this.

WHAT: Smack dab in the middle of Altman's unbeatable string of truly great films that ran from Brewster McCloud in 1970 to Nashville in 1975 (and that perhaps extended even longer on both ends for people who like MASH and Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson a bit more than I do) is his version of Raymond Chandler, the missing link between (for instance) Murder, My Sweet and The Big Lebowski. It's been far too long since I've last seen it, though I've read a lot of writing about it in the meantime, including a great take by James Naremore, from whom I shall now quote:
The underlying concept is intriguing: Elliot Gould is intentionally miscast as Philip Marlowe, and the setting is updated to contemporary, dope-crazed Los Angeles, where the private eye becomes a ridiculous anachronism.
WHERE/WHEN: Tonight only at the Phyllis Wattis Theatre at the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art, at 7:00.

WHY: With SFMOMA shutting its revolving doors for an extensive remodeling project in a week and a half, the Wattis, one of the key venues for film projection in San Francisco, will be out of commission for more than two years. It's hard to think of a more aptly-titled film to mark tonight's final 35mm projection at the museum before the projectors are to be removed.

The good news is that tonight's "long goodbye" is really a "see you later," because the projectors are just going into storage for the extensive construction period, and are expected to be re-installed in time for the museum's reopening in early 2016. And when they are, they may get used more frequently than ever, as part of the museum makeover is the addition of a separate entrance to the theatre from the outside, so that screenings will be able to happen at times when the museum galleries are closed. Which means the Wattis, previously been limited to Thursday evening and daytime screenings, will have the flexibility to hold evening programs more than once a week upon reopening. So while a piece of the Frisco Bay specialty film-screening puzzle will be missed for a while, it has the potential to come back with more passion and power than ever before.

If you've been immersed in the Roxie's classic noir series (which ends tonight with a double-bill of Criss Cross and The Crooked Way) over the past two weeks, The Long Goodbye may be a good way to ease back into the modern world with a merely forty-year-old detective film rather than the sixty- or eighty-year-old films that made up the bulk of that series.

And if you want to see another Altman film on the big screen soon, try the Balboa Theatre, which will screen Popeye on June 8th as part of a weekly Saturday matinee series of kid-friendly films, that started last week.

HOW: 35mm print

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