Movies - TV
How Robert Altman Used A Single John Williams Tune To Flesh Out The Long Goodbye
Robert Altman is known for being an experimental and unconventional filmmaker, and one of the director’s main areas of experimentation was with audio. Altman’s films commonly featured unconventional sound mixes that mimic the chaos of real-world audio, but the director’s most experimental soundtrack was for “The Long Goodbye.”
For the soundtrack of “The Long Goodbye,” Altman relies on a single song that is played multiple times throughout the film. However, to avoid repetition or annoying the audience, Altman made different variations on the single musical theme, like jazz, tango, and mariachi versions, that would hide the central melody and bring something new into the mix.
The theme pops up everywhere — as background music, a funeral march, a doorbell trill, an absent-minded tune tapped out on the piano — and serves as an eerie reminder to the audience that something is not quite right. In fact, the theme is played at least 18 times in the film’s 112-minute run-time, but it’s not repetitive because of Altman’s clever concealment.