Analysis of the Trailer for ‘The Long Goodbye’

This is the trailer for the 1973 neo-noir film directed by Robert Altman, starring Elliot Gould as Phillip Marlowe. The plot focuses on Phillip who returns after driving his friend Terry Lennox to the Mexican border, to find Terry’s wife Sylvia has been killed. Terry is also found to have committed suicide. Marlowe proceeds to investigate the suspicious circumstances, only to find that they are all linked.

Within the trailer itself, there are many traits you can ascertain to show that it conforms to the neo-noir genre. In the very opening shot of the trailer, Marlowe can be seen smoking a cigarette. The use of cigarette smoke is common amongst classic noir films in order to make the characters to appear more ‘tough’ and to cloud the vision of the, making the scene feel more mysterious. The second shot is of Eileen Wade (Nina van Pallandt). This shot conforms to typical expectations of the genre in two ways. Firstly the character of Eileen serves as the ‘Femme-Fatal’ for this film. This means that she uses her sexuality in order to manipulate Marlowe into investigating the disappearance of her husband Roger. This character will be seen in nearly all films of this genre and this film is not different. Secondly, this shot uses the reflections of the street lamps in order to make it appear to be more artistic. The use of reflections is a typical aspect of noir in order to give the viewer context of where the characters are- without having to have a shot dedicated to that subject. As Marlowe is seen chasing after the car- many iron bars that have been placed into the shot in order to obscure the vision of the viewer- this can also be seen later on in the trailer with the use of Venetian Blinds which cast unnatural shadows on the actors faces and has connotations of being behind bars- a risk that follows the ‘private-eye’ character. Furthermore, Marlowe is seen firing a pistol. In many classic noir films, the characters will be armed with small firearms in order to increase the fear factor- without expressing actual violence. However it is clear that this film is part of the Neo-Noir movement as the level of violence/blood is significantly increased to the lack of Motion Picture Production Codes.The idea of suicide and interrogation is widely explored within this trailer and this definitely would not have been allowed during the classic noir period.

Overall it is clear to see that even from this short trailer that this film conforms to the typical expectations of a Neo-Noir film. This can be seen through the use of adult films, cigarette smoke, claustrophobic camera angles as well as low key lighting with frequent shadows across the characters faces. All of these traits make this film Neo-Noir rather than Classic Noir and can be seen widely throughout the genre, with similar films including ‘Chinatown’ and it’s sequel ‘The Two Jakes’.


Cigarette Smoke is a common feature of the classic noir genre


The femme fatal character of Eileen Wade


Iron bars are commonly found in Neo-Noir


Guns emerged in the late classic noir stage


Camera angles are often used in order to make a scene feel as cramped as possible. Venetian blinds will also cast powerful shadows across the characters faces


Reflections of certain characters are common, as is violence and blood in Neo-Noir


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