All three of Altman’s films from 1973 to 1974 reflect a larger trend in New Hollywood films, and indeed in early 1970s American culture, by evoking the early 1930s through the immediate postwar period of the later 1940s. The Long Goodbye, Thieves Like Us, and California Split engage with issues of memory, identity, and cinematic history, and all three films incorporate elements of film noir, to varying degrees, as part of their self-reflexive strategies. Most important, all three films engage with similar musical materials based on classic jazz, yet with unique results. Altman introduces a new standard with continuous reinterpretations in The Long Goodbye, while pervasive, contemporary radio broadcasts create an off-screen chorus in Thieves Like Us. California Split offers the most integrated musical score, in which a collage of jazz standards provides the film’s sinew, tying together a ragged story of two gamblers and their dynamic friendship.
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