5. Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle - Well this is unpleasant. I hate putting
any of these performances "last" because they're all great, but I have
to choose one. Anyway Mitchum gives a great performance giving this quietly devastating portrait of a man who essentially wasted his life.
Best Scene: "what a future he’s got, huh"
4. Robert Shaw in The Hireling- Shaw gives a heartbreaking performance here showing a
different shade of his talent in his powerful realization of a lonely
man seeking love.
Best Scene: Declaration of Love.
3. Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now - Sutherland's performance is both an unforgettable depiction of man struggling with his grief and also so effectively helps to realize the spine chilling horror of the film.
Best Scene: Seeing the Inspector.
2. Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye - Gould gives a brilliantly funny and always compelling performance in his rather contradictory yet most effective take on Phillip Marlowe.
Best Scene: "I even lost my cat"
1. Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man - Edward Woodward gives a masterful performance that works as normalcy against the unknown, as a portrait of zealous if foolish conviction, and harrowing depiction of facing unspeakable horrors. This year frankly deserves multiple winners by the sheer quality of so many of the leading turns.
Robert Shaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Steven Ledbetter in The Hireling.
The Hireling, though at times curiously directed, is an effective film about the relationship between a recently widowed Lady and her chauffeur.
Although I've been an enthusiastic supporter of all of Robert Shaw's many memorable supporting turns until this performance I have never reviewed any of his leading turns. This is the first and a rather different side of Shaw given we are usually left a bit more of distance given he's not the lead. This is also Shaw in a very different role, far from his say his villainous turn in The Sting also in 73, or even the other leading turns I've seen him in which have been "men on a mission" films. We are introduced to Shaw's Ledbetter as the hireling, used to drive the Lady Franklin (Sarah Miles) who has recently been released from a mental clinic for her crippling depression after the death of her husband. Shaw actually rather quiet in the early scenes of the film as Ledbetter fulfills his duties with a proper "yes, my lady" at the end of every confirmation. I will say it took just a bit of getting used to this Shaw as this driver, though no fault of his own, as Shaw just has that certain look about him as though he's planning on killing someone even though he's not, though I should note this quality in Shaw actually ends up being an asset to his characterization in the end.
Before all that though we get this other side to Shaw as Ledbetter drives around the Lady Franklin. Shaw isn't surprising, it's Robert Shaw we're talking about here to begin with, but it rather remarkable to see Shaw in this more unassuming role. Shaw's approach though is atypical even in a part like this, that being the working class "friend" helping a wealthy person become a better person in some way. The reason being Shaw actually keeps the idea of class in mind in his work. In that Shaw, rather than making Ledbetter some free spirit from the get go, still shows the certain stilted quality in the interactions particularly through the unnatural delivery of "My Lady" at the end of every response. What makes this so effective in developing the relationship is the way Shaw is able to convey essentially the concern in Ledbetter, in just his slight glance Shaw is able to reveal a bit of empathy towards her suggesting the way Ledbetter comes to understand that the Lady needs support.
Shaw is excellent as he carefully works in this warmth in Ledbetter's words towards the lady, and begins to try to get to help her recover from her losses in some way. He even offers his own support by comparing the Lady to his wife and naming his children. There is such a strong affection as he speaks these words though it is towards the Lady not towards his wife and children. This is just the subtle touch though in Shaw's work though as there is such a genuine charm that Shaw brings in Ledbetter's general encouraging spirit towards the Lady. As the Lady slowly becomes more outgoing and seems to be recovering from her depression, Shaw mirrors this interestingly by offering Ledbetter as becoming all the more outgoing towards the Lady. He still keeps some of the structure of class requirement but Shaw reveals all the more of generosity in Ledbetter. This sort of culminates as he takes the Lady to a boxing matches, by students he teach, and Shaw reveals such endearing joy from Ledbetter as he not only sees her happy as well but is able to spend time with her.
Unfortunately Ledbetter is not all that he seems, though this is not to reveal some truly duplicitous sort. We are shown Ledbetter's real life where he works at his dirty garage and is alone besides the occasion liaison with local waitress, having made up his wife and family. Shaw here reveals not the real man or the false man, but rather what Ledbetter is without the Lady by his side. An underlying theme within the film is the trauma of World War I though that is not often brought up. Shaw's brilliant though because he shows that those experiences are merely a part of Ledbetter's existence. Shaw uses that through his usual intensity but this time adjusting it to reveal this internalized pain that is almost a constant. Shaw is careful in that he shows that Ledbetter is not constantly in anguish, rather though there is this discomfort of mind and soul that alludes to the horrors that the man had to experience. Shaw shows that this leaves him unable to find solace with the exception of when he is with the Lady Franklin, and that is where Shaw so effectively reveals a true happiness.
Ledbetter though finds his services less and less required, to the growing health of the Lady, and her finding a companion in an unfaithful upper class sort. Ledbetter in turn attempts to find any way back to the Lady, which includes faking a car breakdown and random service calls. This is no romantic comedy though where this behavior will turn out well for all. Shaw is horrible to watch in these scenes, and no that is not a criticism. Shaw makes it more than a little painful to watch at times as he exudes this burden in these moments. This tension of a man basically waiting to hear the woman he loves to say the words. That sense of waiting is there and Shaw places these moments of hesitation as though Ledbetter is leaving gaps hoping she will say the words within them. There's one particularly powerful scene where Ledbetter says nothing but names his false ill-fortunes. This scene is a little curious in some of the director, Alan Bridges, choices but Shaw is on point. Shaw speaks the words that are meaningless to Ledbetter, yet in his face there is such a terrible longing as he wants to say more yet cannot bring himself to do so. The most moving moment though of that scene actually is when the Lady asks Ledbetter's first name, and Shaw expresses such agonizing realization as Ledbetter the distance between them since she does not even know his full name.
Unfortunately again the film is not done ripping one's heart out as Ledbetter finally does decide to express his love to the Lady Franklin. The scene is incredible for Shaw as he portrays such a desperation and is absolutely heartbreaking by being such miserable mess. Shaw though makes the emotion absolutely raw and honest in his declaration of love though making it all the more painful as she rejects him. Shaw in that scene showed a man basically at his end, though still with love in his heart, but this changes in his final scene where he crashes a date between the Lady and her rich unfaithful suitor. Shaw's a different kind of mess here, and it's fascinating scene as he depicts another breakdown though this time defined by hate rather than affection. Shaw is outstanding though as he presents a man lower than rock bottom flailing around drunk on alcohol, but also through his intense sorrows at seeing that his chance for happiness was a lie. This is an amazing performance by Robert Shaw giving such tragic yet tender depiction of this lonely man, that is another angle of his immense talent.
Edward Woodward did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sergeant Howie in The Wicker Man.
The Wicker Man is an effective horror film, other than a couple of strange musical choices, about a police officer traveling to a remote Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a girl.
Edward Woodward plays the police officer and is our entry point into the strange island which is the setting of the film. There is a brief introduction on the mainland where we witness Woodward dutifully perform his duties as a Catholic in church before going off to perform his duties as a police officer after receiving a letter noting the disappearance of a girl. Woodward's performance is pivotal in establishing the tone of the film given that he is on such another wavelength than the rest of the actors as the islanders. The ensemble of the islanders, except Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle, as these odd "simple" folk where they are have this unsettling sinister joviality. Woodward is a complete separation from every else by presenting the complete outsider that is Howie, although this is not quite the more usual leading horror performance more on that later. Woodward though offers the right representation of a normality as he first arrives to the island and begins his investigation.
Woodward offers a strict reality with his performance and with that he assures that Howie has that separation of from the islanders. Woodward does something very important which is that he does not inflict his performance with any unnecessary style or needless mannerisms which in turn only amplifies the rest of the ensemble. Woodward at the core of his performance establishes the reflection of traditional society against the strange society of the islanders. When he first arrives Woodward is excellent by portraying the genuine reaction that would come from being accosted by such odd passive aggression right for the moment he merely asks for help to reach the shore from his plane. Woodward helps to convey the unpleasantness of this place by so earnestly portraying the sheer disbelief in Howie that would most likely would be the reaction of any person to the islanders seeming lack of concern for the life of the missing girl.
That is not all there is to Woodward's performance, as again this is not just the normal protagonist of a horror film as the sane man trying to figure things out. It's a bit different. Although Woodward does a proper representation of normalcy Howie brings more to the island than that. Howie is a strict law officer and a strict Christian in addition to that which Woodward utilized to be a powerful element in his performance. As noted intense actors go Edward Woodward truly needs to be named far more often than he is, as he's one of the very best at it. Woodward utilizes this intensity brilliantly here as he fashions it within his performance so naturally. Woodward utilizes it so well in revealing exactly Howie's state on the island. On one end the strict way Woodward presents himself, very to the point and with a directness is fitting to a law officer. Woodward extends this further though in portraying also the this as a part of his own beliefs. The Christian values in Howie, Woodward upholds through a depiction of a tense undeniable conviction.
Woodward presents Howie well as a truly righteous man at the very least in his own eyes, and often plays the part as the man attempting to bring some sort of justice in what seems to be a Godless island. In that sense Woodward cut through every scene like a razor in the way he so incisively proceeds with Howie's investigation. Woodward never makes it merely the investigation though, even though that aspect Woodward emphasis most strongly that also offers Howie's most sympathetic attitude. There is not a single scene where Woodward is not captivating to watch because of how he handles every scene. It's amazing in the way that Woodward realizes this very idea of kind of a proper societal oversight in the film. Woodward in a way makes Howie both seem absolutely in command yet wholly out of his element all the same. In every moment of the investigation, as he questions the whereabouts of the girl, Woodward's performance makes Howie the irreproachable detective who will discover whatever mystery that island holds.
Woodward plays with that conviction towards solving the case also in his conviction towards his own faith. Woodward is terrific in portraying this disdain Howie has towards the villagers would seem to relish in all behaviors that Howie finds morally reprehensible. Woodward takes this further than merely a possible puritanical attitude towards their more lax views on open sexuality, as he shows this disdain churning to disgust as he comes to know that the islanders are pagans. The severity of the reaction Woodward conveys shows this not to be merely Howie hating a religion that is not his own, rather he contributes this sense of disbelief that in his modern times such a community could even exist that reject his own beliefs. Woodward does have that intensity of the zealot but this does not make Howie as distant as the villagers to the viewer. This again because Woodward does layer this to further convey the notion that there is something seriously wrong with the villagers, particularly in the classroom scene where Howie admonishes their psychotic lack of empathy in the school children due to seemingly having no concern whatsoever for their own classmate. Woodward makes Howie's cause a righteous one, even if Howie can be rather self-righteous.
The island though slowly reveals itself to be even more sinister than just the general rudeness of its denizens as they seem to be building towards their annual festival which may entail human sacrifice. Woodward excels in portraying the frustrations in dealing with the antagonist locals own disdain for his beliefs particularly Lord Summerisle. What's so good about Woodward's work though is the way reveals that every time Howie's resolve is hit, Woodward expresses this building back towards his confidence that he in the right. He does this rather quickly, but Woodward importantly shows that it still must be done. The most severe test before the climax comes when the landlord's daughter of the inn he's staying at attempts to seduce him. Woodward again does reveal the difficulty in his resolve as Howie almost succumbs to the advances, though he's able to stop himself. I love though how Woodward again presents the resolve having returned summed best by his oh so proper delivery of Howie's explanation of his rejection to the woman. Now before tackling the climax of the performance, which is a quite thing all in itself. This performance up until that point is an outstanding piece work. He makes Howie understood as a man, but he also helps to create that terrible sense of isolation that is so pervasive in the film through this. He is so unlike the other performances, yet again though Howie is a particular sort of man Woodward still makes him an honest one. This makes the horror of the film all the more unsettling particularly as he arrives to the finale where he discovers that someone is going to be sacrificed unfortunately, it's him.
Woodward is simply amazing for every second of the final scene. In the early part of the scene as Woodward shows the effort in Howie as he is trying to come to grips with what is happening, and almost in a certain disbelief in if the villagers really are serious. This changes severely when he sees the wicker man in full view. Woodward's reaction realizes the terror by the sheer terror he expresses in the moment. It horrifying as he makes the fear real. Woodward never loses the fear for the rest of the scene and is harrowing as he grants the situation a genuine gravity. Woodward does not become one note, which would almost be warranted, nevertheless Woodward makes the most of what remains. Woodward depicts the painful attempt to basically gain his resolve once again as he pleads with the islanders trying to explain that the sacrifice will be meaningless. When this does not work though I love the vicious anger, alluding to perhaps a justice in the end, he directs right at Lord Summerisle by stating that the Lord will be next to fill the burning man. No reprieve is granted and Woodward again is unforgettable. Woodward makes the terror so vivid in his disturbing yet heartbreaking final anguish. As he reveals this proper mess of fear, hatred but also just an attempt at solace as he holds onto his own faith one last time.
Robert Mitchum did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular Eddie "Fingers" Coyle in The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a terrific film, finding the tone Killing Them Softly failed to find in adapting this film's source material's followup, about an intersecting group of criminals centering around an old small time crook
Robert Mitchum plays the lead role of Eddie Coyle, though this is technically a smaller leading role, he's lead but the film spends ample time with the other people within the crime world Eddie is associated with. Mitchum though is the center point for a reason in his depiction of Eddie Coyle, which is a performance that must be stated that it is brilliant from the get go then dissect why. Again Robert Mitchum is not constantly front and center in the film, and what he does is so much within his performance it is something truly remarkable. Now in Mitchum first scene we have him meet one of his first associates and it's incredibly what Mitchum does here. Mitchum very much embraces his age in the role, and never tries to hide it. In fact he quite embraces, amplifying it even by wearing these hard years within himself. He doesn't create a falsehood in this regard, as he does not attempt to try to show this old timer whose really tougher than all these young ins, which I'm sure Mitchum could have pulled off. Mitchum though instead far more effectively reveals who Eddie is, which is an old manstill in the criminal life.
Mitchum just is this old Boston crook, with a great Boston accent by the way, and takes it so much further from there. In that initial scene, although his face says the truth, now Mitchum shows Eddie's attempt to be more than he is but it is only an attempt. As he describes where his little moniker comes from there is this strained attempt at being some man he may have been in the past, or might not have been in reality. There's a real sadness hidden within Mitchum's work as he attempts to express this confidence of real tough within a man who has lived a hard life yet that is still meaningless within the world he lives in. Mitchum never focuses upon a single emotion and that is part of the incredible nuance in his performance though. As even in this exchange with one of his associates, even as he's trying to act tough in a way, Mitchum though even conveys just the right bit of history with still the right kind of comfort speaking to someone who he's known for awhile, he realizes this aspect so well throughout the film with every one of Eddie's "friends".
Mitchum creating the actual sense of any camaraderie to the other criminals he associates with is pivotal since it makes the story all the crueler for Eddie. The reason for that being that Eddie is an informant, aiding ATF agent Dave Foley (Richard Jordan) in taking down his various friends in an attempt to try to avoid his prison sentence of at least two years. Mitchum is amazing in the role though in every one of his scenes with Jordan because of how much he reveals about in Eddie in these scenes. As when it seems like Foley might be able to help him Mitchum projects a pride in Eddie, putting up again a certain front to try to be more than he is. Mitchum though again creates a duality in this as there is a weakness in this pride, the effort behind that can be felt which is purposeful in Mitchum's work. As Mitchum shows Eddie basically trying to convince himself he's doing the right thing by giving these bits of information out, Mitchum manages to create empathy within Eddie despite his actions seeming largely selfish in nature.
We are given a glimpse of Eddie at home with his wife and kids. Mitchum actually very good in these scenes by just being so straight forward in presenting Eddie as just a nice father and husband no more, no less. Mitchum though importantly does show exactly that Eddie does have something he cares about. Furthermore Mitchum, when Foley demands more information or fails to really provide any real benefit for the information that Eddie provides him. Mitchum again is excellent in never simplifying the emotional reaction which further helps to explain the man. Mitchum grants the expected frustrations towards Foley as he gets nothing in return but he also does reveal a real pain in Eddie as he speaks about giving up his friends who trust him. There's an outstanding moment late in the film where Eddie approaches Foley with an additional bit of information that will lead to the arrest of more of his friends. In the approach Mitchum presents the struggle and sense of self-loathing in his hesitant delivery. This makes it all the more torturous when Foley coldly reveals that the information is useless since the men have already been arrested.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle, in great detail, shows the methods of the criminals as they undergo long lengths to commit their crimes in almost a French Connection style and also reveals that there is no honor among anyone in the organization. In turn Eddie's story is not one about redemption, or overcoming the odds to get out. It's about the last days of crook who never really made it anywhere, and no one truly cares about all that much. This sad truth is within the entirety of Mitchum's performance though again with only the weak attempts to create some sort of rationalization that he's more than he is, and will have an actual future. At the end of the film though Eddie run out of options, since he doesn't really have anyone else to turn in, and Mitchum reveals the palatable despair in Eddie as he no longer can create any delusions. What I love again though is the film never stops exactly to tells us about Eddie's state it so effortlessly within Mitchum's work. There is one particularly powerful moment near the end of the film where Eddie ponders about the promise in the future of a young Hockey player. Eddie does not speak about himself yet Mitchum is heartbreaking by in his face expressing that self-reflection of a man who knows he's essentially wasted his life.
Donald Sutherland did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying John Baxter in Don't Look Now.
Don't Look Now is an effective horror film about a husband and wife dealing with strange events after the drowning of their young daughter.
Well once again returning to Donald Sutherland in a leading role and once again curiously dealing with a role in which his character is dealing with the death of his child due to drowning. Sutherland, despite his character dealing with a very similar tragedy as his work in Ordinary People, did not simply give a repetition of this performance in that later film. A pivotal reason for this is where we come into the tragedy. In Ordinary People much time has past and the focus is upon dealing with this surviving son. That's not the intention of Don't Look Now as the film opens with drowning where Sutherland's John Baxter senses something is wrong, but fails to rescue his daughter in time. Now that scene alone is a harrowing moment in Sutherland's performance as he reflects the intensity and rawness of grief first realized. The film though then switches to the couple in Vienna a short time later where John is working to help restore an old Church.
Sutherland's approach in the succeeding scenes is particularly effective in the way he presents the grief of John. Sutherland often times on the most exterior surface of his performance will deliver his lines as though there is nothing wrong, and when doing his work in particular Sutherland offers a man attempting to go forward with his life. What makes this remarkable though is the way Sutherland in no way hides the grief in that he is able to portray a man trying to get along with life best he can. Of course Sutherland does show that is not really the truth in his own performance. That intensity even found in the first scene, though no longer overt is still apparent as Sutherland instead internalizes as part of what John is. Although Sutherland does not always direct the sorrow, the sorrow is always apparent. Sutherland shows that John does not wear it particularly well. John does not say what is wrong, even tries to act like there isn't anything wrong at times, but Sutherland keeps that loss alive within his performance even when it is not focused upon.
Sutherland shows that John is acting as though he is attempting move on in some way which is against his wife Laura (Julie Christie) who becomes easily fascinated when a blind woman who claims to be able to see their a daughter. Sutherland excels in these moments as he finds the right complexity within John's state and further shows that it is less a state of attempting to move on but rather a state of denial. The way Sutherland works this is very natural in it difficulty, in that he even makes John's occasional humorous moments a little difficult to take as there is still this innate sadness in even these moments. When he is forced to more directly relive this tragedy due to the "psychic's" communications with his wife. Sutherland is excellent in his realization of the man's pain through the mix of emotion he shows. There's the moment where he tries to move his wife past it and in that moment Sutherland brings that attempt to sort of close himself off from the problem. When she keeps engaging with the blind woman though Sutherland grants a passive aggression in his performance suggesting an anger in John at being reminded of his loss so directly.
In this we also see John's relationship with his wife. Sutherland and Christie are interesting together as they bring this right sort of detached chemistry. In that the two do suggest there was a clear loving relationship between the two as there are a few moments of warmth of two old lovers, as well as that sex scene, which seems even more famous than the film itself, and there's a reason for that. In those moments though they bring the right connection at times, but so often that is not their relationship. At the other times, particularly when Laura listens to the medium, they do well to provide that contrast in view and reaction to their mutual loss. They in turn manage to effectively realize that towards their interactions which are not always loving. The regrets and problems stemming from their loss particularly on Sutherland's end when his delivery or reaction can often be short if not wholly cold towards Christie. Sutherland again excels so much in terms of truly defining the way the grief defines John's state in the film. Sutherland's brilliant because he gives that man who is trying so hard to keep it together yet this only results in a certain self-inflicted torture.
Of course Don't Look Know is a horror film, and Sutherland's work is also essential to the film's success in this regard, as he becomes the sole lead for the last third of the film after Christie's Laura apparently goes home to England. John though believes he sees her still in Venice attending a funeral, and he goes off to try to find her. Now the pivotal part of Sutherland's performance is that he does not allow these scenes not to only be a showcase for Nicholas Roeg's atmospheric direction. Sutherland is never lost within these scenes and is particularly moving in portraying the intensity of fear in John as he searches for her. The unease and anxiety is palatable through Sutherland as he helps create this sense of dread through his honesty of his performance. Sutherland also plays the role as a man truly going through these strange events which makes these scenes all the more off-putting. Sutherland internalizes the instability of being in the strange place and that haunted quality as John struggles to find an answer to his question. Sutherland never forgets the crux of his character which is the loss of his daughter, which becomes all the more prevalent as John keeps seeing a strange figure in the same rain coat that his daughter died in. Sutherland portrays the unexpressed sorrow revealing itself as he looks upon the figure, and is heart wrenching by gradually revealing the extent of his suffering as John attempts to learn the nature of figure. Donald Sutherland's work here is key to the success of the film which slowly gets under your skin. Sutherland is never in a "genre" film so to speak. He gives an intimate and powerfully honest performance that makes the horror within the film all the more chilling.
Elliott Gould did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye.
The Long Goodbye is a terrific neo noir by Robert Altman that modernizes private detective Philip Marlowe.
Elliot Gould after his breakout in the late 60's found himself in a career slump due to his behavior on the set of the film that eventually became What's Up Doc, and I would imagine his performance in Ingmar Bergman's The Touch did not help matters. Robert Altman though cast him here as Philip Marlowe which seems like a rather curious casting choice on paper. The role of Philip Malowe is usually reserved for tough guy actors like Humphrey Bogart, James Garner, James Caan, and even later on in the seventies Robert Mitchum. This is not a traditional representation of the role though, and not simply because it was given a contemporary setting. The film opens not with Marlowe taking care of a case but rather dealing with his cat who has gotten hungry in the middle of the night. This Marlowe lives in a lonely apartment but with a group of frequently nude hippie women live across the way from him. Don't take that as a glamorous setting because it's really not.
Marlowe, after attempting and failing to find the right cat food, still doesn't get a case just request to drive his friend Terry, who claims to have fought with his wife, to Tijuana. Gould casting suddenly starts to make sense as this is not the Marlowe of Bogart, and I'd say may have influenced Doc Sportello of Inherent Vice. Gould does not seem like a fit for a tough guy, and his performance isn't as a tough guy. The thing is he isn't separate entirely from the character either, he is Philip Marlowe but entirely Elliott Gould's Philip Marlowe. To explain, Gould's performance is not without the traits of Marlowe, and what is set up around the character. As required of a P.I. in the forties he smokes in basically every scene, and he always wears a suit. Again those features of Marlowe though not exactly Gould's performance per se. Gould's performance feels as though he is a Marlowe though is perhaps more of as an actual private detective rather than the hero of a detective novel.
That is not to say that this what one would charge as a "realistic" performance, not that it is fantastical though. Gould gives us perhaps the Marlowe of being in the life as he is and would be in as a private detective. Gould's delivery often is curious yet intriguing to the character in as he drifts out of conversations with those who really are not interested in him all that much. It's something brilliant though in this and the way Gould plays it. In that maybe the tough guy Marlowe might say similair things and seem "cool", the way Gould suggests perhaps a certain loneliness in this act as thought he man's life is made of these cursory interactions. Of course Marlowe has his time when he does get a bit more attention, where he fits in the role as the protagonist of a film noir. That begins as the cops come by the question Marlowe about the disappearance of his friend who asked for the ride, and the brutal death of that man's wife.
As Marlowe is arrested, on a trumped up charge, we are given a Marlowe perhaps more in his element as he deals with the police. Gould is rather hilarious in this scene as he kind of talks around the cops and makes fun of them for their severe attitude. Again though there something genius in how Gould approaches this in again he is the film noir hero, but he's also not at all. This is also apparent in his scenes where he deals with a strange vicious criminal Augustine (Mark Rydell) and his gang who wants money that was being kept by Terry which Augustine thinks was given to Marlowe. Gould seems to fulfill kind of the typical way of acting above those interrogating him and trying to menace him. As typical he's pretty calm and collected, kind of above it all while showing a certain disdain towards them. Gould even fulfills the requirement in that he's indeed rather enjoyable to watch in these scenes, but all of it is not truly in the normal way. Instead of being the master of the room, Gould plays it somewhat adrift as someone really would come across as who is not taking such a situation seriously. It is so different yet it still absolutely works.
That also is again not how Gould plays every scene as the detective, he carefully only plays scenes that way when technically the situation is a waste of time for Marlowe. We are also given scenes where we actually see him in action such as when he is hired to find a writer, Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden), by the man's wife Eileen Wade. Marlowe quickly finds the husband at a shady detox center, and even sneaks in to help the man escape. These scenes are actually a brilliant bit of directing by Altman, though Gould is important within them. Altman though directs them in this purposefully kind of low key way while Gould portrays more of that assertiveness of behavior that would be more fitting to more of closeups with some more pronounced edits. Marlowe saves the man and it soon becomes as though there is no mystery to anyone besides Marlowe. Here's kind of a part of the key of Gould's whole performance that makes it take a step further than it might have been as this approach could've been parody but it's not. It's something truly fascinating.
Gould again is adrift in those meaningless, to him, interrogation scenes but he's not that way towards the mystery that involves people that Marlowe does care about. Gould does bring this palatable undercurrent of an emotional connection there. When he quizzes Wade's wife on knowing more than she acts as though she does, there is a severity in his voice, and Gould makes Marlowe as someone who cares. There is something even more to this as again he's being the film noir hero, but this takes on yet another purpose that is surprisingly poignant. In that Gould again shows that Marlowe does care and the way he does, while no one else seems to, is made rather moving even. The performance in a way I found to be covert in its emotional impact. Now it was already an entertaining engaging work, but it's more. There's an incredible scene that closes the film where Marlowe finally "solves his problem". It is very cathartic moment as Gould attaches the emotion within that goes beyond just getting the villain so to speak. Gould reflects a further attachment of the personal betrayal involved but also the satisfaction of essentially being truly "Philip Marlowe". What Gould does here is this remarkable contradiction of a characterization. In that Gould has the features of that noir detective, Philip Marlowe. He's in the seventies though, and he's not exactly as everyone else should be yet he feels entirely natural to himself because of Gould's work. Gould never falls into caricature, but makes sense of this contradiction of character. This is such daring work that absolutely succeeds in terms of creating something completely new out of something old. I loved this performance.