Reviews — May 2

Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye” opens with an amusing seven-minute sequence in which private eye Philip Marlowe (Elliot Gould) attempts to pacify his hungry cat, who is smarter than he is. It also features an unexpected act of horrible violence, and a breezy scene with Gould and the late Sterling Hayden getting drunk on a Malibu beach — a scene reportedly shot while Hayden was stoned and both actors improvised.

What I’m trying to say is that this 1973 adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s famous detective novel is, tonally, all over the map — probably as suited for the comedy shelf as drama. Roger Ebert wrote (wisely, of course) that it was a great film that was neither a good introduction to Altman or Chandler. The movie deviates wildly from the 1953 book, and chain-smoking Gould plays Marlowe as if he’s been plucked from the 1950s and dropped back into Los Angeles 20 years later when everyone is into yoga.

Gould spends the film trying to learn who killed the friend who showed up at his house at 3 in the morning demanding a ride to Tijuana, although the investigation — like the film’s multiple flavors — is all over the map. By the last scene, he figures it out. The resolution is surprising and, in a hard-boiled way, satisfying. It’s hard to dislike a film that rolls final credits over its detective hero dancing off the screen.

“The Long Goodbye” (1973) Directed by Robert Altman. Starring Elliot Gould, Sterling Hayden, Nina Van Pallandt and Mark Rydell. Rated R for violence, nudity and language. 112 minutes. A former governor of California appears uncredited as a beefy bodyguard.



Author Rochelle Krich is a new find for me, although she’s written many other books and short stories. “Blues in the Night” is the first in her series featuring protagonist Molly Blume, a freelance writer who specializes in true crime — she collects crime news briefs for Los Angeles area newspapers and has just finished her second book.

Molly also is an Orthodox Jew, albeit a slightly unorthodox one. She wears short skirts and went through a rebellious period of eating non-kosher food, for instance. And she’s divorced from a cheater husband, rather than happily married and having babies, like her sisters.

So maybe she’s not the right catch for the hunky new rabbi who recently took over the shul. But she’s sincere in her beliefs and conscientious about finishing up her writing work before sundown on Friday.

As “Blues in the Night” opens, Molly is intrigued with a brief entry on a police blotter — a woman wearing a nightgown is the victim of a hit-and-run. Why was the woman two miles from home at night, scantily clad? And why did the driver who hit her leave the scene?

Thinking she may have the seed of her next book or article, Molly begins investigating. She discovers the woman has tried suicide before, possibly because of a horrible incident 18 months in her past. Molly senses that the victim’s relatives are hiding something, maybe even lying, and that only fuels her passion to figure this mystery out.

Some of the dialogue was a little stiff, especially at the beginning of the book. But I loved how the novel kept me guessing all the way through. And I appreciated that she’s a strong woman, imperfect yes, but never portrayed as a ditz who needs to apologize for her persistence.

And I also particularly enjoyed the details about Molly’s life — sharing Shabbat dinner with her family, meeting her former in-laws after religious services, cooking a meal for a family in mourning, playing maj-jong with her sisters — as well as her work. “Blues in the Night” offered a glimpse into another culture, and that’s my favorite type of reading material.

“Blues in the Night,” by Rochelle Krich, 2002, Ballantine Books.

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