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Chinatown is the 1974 film noir masterpiece directed by Roman Polanski and written by Robert town, who is one of the best screenwriters on this planet. It stars Jack Nicholson as J.J. Gittes, Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray and has superb support from John Huston as Noah Cross, Evelyn's father.
Set in 1937, and using the real life backdrop of the water problems of that time, J.J. Gittes is a Private Detective hired by a woman claiming to be Evelyn Mulwray to look into her husband's whereabouts and mysterious actions. Gittes follow Mr Mulwray, who works for the water department, and sees him kissing a girl. He takes several photos and they end up in the newspaper, leading everyone to think that he is having an affair.
However, soon after the photos are released, the real Evelyn (Dunaway) comes to J.J. Gittes and threatens to sue him. Instead, Gittes is able to persuade her to let him dig deeper into her husband's actions, and soon finds out that he has died by drowning. Sensing that there is far more to this story that he originally thought, Gittes continue to dig and finds himself being threatened and beaten. He eventually meets Noah Cross, and is given yet another job to find the girl who Evelyn's husband was seen kissing.
This leads to even more twists and turns that point to conspiracies within the LA water department, and ultimately to a thrilling and tragic climax in Chinatown.
In my mind, this is the finest film ever made. In the polls, this is always in the top three best films, usually alongside the Godfather and Casablanca. But in my mind, and I do think in the minds of many others, this simply is the finest, neatest, best scripted, best acted and best directed film of all time. Nothing in this film is bad at all. Everything is right about this film, and in no way could it have been made better. Just perfect. Jack Nicholson excels in his role as the very subtle J.J. Gittes, and Faye Dunaway easily matches him as the wronged, mysterious woman who is hiding more than she will admit. And John Huston makes a fabulous support character who is more involved that he likes anyone to know. The perfect film.
You've got to hand it to Jack Nicholson. There's something about his acting that surpasses a lot of his contemporaries. His ability to flick between roles is amazing. Whether it be the obsessive compulsive in As Good As It Gets, the sane guy in the loony bin in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, the writer losing it in King's The Shining, or the smooth-talking private detective here in Chinatown; he always manages to turn in an impressive performance. The camera loves him, there's no two ways about it.
Chinatown ranks up pretty high on most people's lists. Director Roman Polanksi is a name synonymous with high quality, while the presence of established director John Huston taking a break to appear ON screen as opposed to behind it here adds more solidity to the film. Nicholson plays private detective Jake Gittes, hired by a woman claiming to be the wife of local tycoon Hollis Mulwray, the chief engineer for the LA water authority. However, when Mulwray ends up dead, and his wife turns out to be someone completely different, Gittes finds himself deeply embroiled in corruption, land disputes and murderous treachery.
This is classic film noir. I'd like to say that it's the best noir ever, with the whole classic private eye elements all present. Some will say it's a film like The Big Sleep; Welles in The Third Man; or Bogart starring in John Huston's Maltese Falcon. As far as I'm aware, the genre is always going to be a strong one, because detective stories and the noir style is always going to appeal in that classic sense. The trick, for me, is the combinations. The plot will always have a bit of mystery, and while the plot here is decent enough, its strength lies in its delivery, and that is nailed on the head.
Polanski's ability to promote various camera angles ensures interest levels are high, giving us perspectives from third person and first person, mainly where Gittes is concerned. There is also a huge element of trust with still cameras inviting Nicholson to act around them. Nicholson has always managed to completely ignore the camera, maintaining the facial expressions needed for the role and not necessarily playing up to the camera. In Chinatown, his slow John Wayne-like drawl fits the character perfectly, and seems in no rush, his wisecracking exterior hiding a strangely affectionate set of emotions that are triggered by Faye Dunaway's femme fatale.
Dunaway is incredibly convincing and confusing as the real Evelyn Mulwray. While there is always trust with Gittes being the good guy, Dunaway manages to create this character who seems to not have a shred of integrity about her. The estranged relationship between her and her on screen father Noah Cross (Huston), as well as her husband's seemingly illicit affair with a mysterious young woman and the passion Evelyn has for Gittes' strong personality: they all combine to create this attractive and alluring character, but the red lights shouting DANGER are flashing wildly every time she's on screen, and you don't know whether she's trustworthy or not. Dunaway exudes the sensuality that Nicholson seems to own the screen with, and is almost a match for him in this film.
There is some good acting from the support roles too. Huston is very good as the rich man, daddy knows best type character, while Perry Lopez, as police Lieutenant Escobar, provides a strong front to combat Nicholson's charisma. Polanksi has strong visions in the film, creating slow moving scenes with fast paced action as their content. The dialogue is completely under the control of Nicholson (whenever he's involved) but you do get the feeling that Polanski rules the roost, and that's how it should be with this style. Film noir can have its Nicholsons, Bogarts, Welles and Mitchums, but without powerful direction behind them, they would turn to over acting performance in mediocre films. Here, the strength of character is shown by the camera work and attention to detail as much as the on screen charisma and charm of the leading man and lady.
I was thoroughly impressed by this. It's visually arresting, and has good pace. Not once does Polanski let you get bored or drag things out. The film tells the story, unfolds the clues and lets you try and work out 'whodunnit', essentially. There are a few shocking revelations along the way, indicating the strength of the story, and with some well placed music from Jerry Goldsmith's score, the atmosphere matches the requirements perfectly. All boxes are ticked, and it's certainly a film I'd be happy to watch again. Classic film noir. Recommended.
Chinatown is a hard-hitting detective mystery directed by Roman Polanski and released in 1974. It stars a young looking Jack Nicholson in the lead role and an equally young Faye Dunnaway supporting him.
Jake Gittes is played by Jack Nicholson. He is a private detective who is witty and wealthy enough. Plus he is very smooth, but is a complicated character to get to know or grow close to.
He is a former cop who is haunted by the past when he used to do the rounds in Los Angele's Chinatown. Jake is hired by a woman played by Diane Ladd to spy on her husband who she believes is cheating on her. He is a prominent well respected chief engineer for the city's water and power department. He get the information and dirt that his client needs but gets a rude awakening when the real outraged Mrs. Mulwray appears played by Faye Dunnaway.
Jake who is not one to accept failure lightly persists in the investigation as the intimidation against him and the number of corpses mount up. This leads him to bluff tycoon and chief villian in the piece Noah Cross played by John Huston. From there the tale is of greed, murder and corruption.
For me this movie is complicated as it is disturbing at times. Jack Nicholson is fantastic in the role of Jake who is a complicated individual who can't accept failure no matter what and is determined to dig out the truth. Faye Dunnaway represents a character who is a femme fatale and is at the core of the movie's darkness. Jack Nicholson for me though stole the show in this movie though as he shows a real witty and humorous but also troubled side to his character.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room, thanks!
Chinatown is an absolute classic of the film noir genre, a term more typically associated with the Humphrey Bogart classics of the 1940s and 1950s such as The Big Sleep, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. It is also Roman Polanski's very best film as a director.
The film begins as Los Angeles private investigator named J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired to spy on a man by someone claiming to be his wife. This sends Gittes on a trail of breadcrumbs that will wind him up following a whole other mystery altogether, with broken noses, deaths, and even a little incest. This is probably the most disturbing noir you're ever likely to see, particularly with its horrifying twist ending, which still has great emotional impact many decades later.
After so many roles firmly rooted as dramas, from Cuckoo's Nest to The Last Detail, it's exciting to see Nicholson branch out a little more and try something different. Noir fits Nicholson like the ten-gallon hat he wears for a large portion of the film - his performance is as reliable as ever, with him playing a complacent detective that gets more than he bargained for. Polanski, who himself was fresh off burying his tragically slain wife Sharon (who was murdered by the Manson family), clearly channels a lot of his emotional despair into a film that's almost relentlessly bleak, delivering a dark and disturbing view of a savage world, where people are not who they seem, and justice does anything but prevail. This is a challenging film that's surprisingly switched on and in tune with what modern audiences want, despite being made 35 years ago. It's certainly a lot more accessible to younger cinemagoers than the aforementioned Bogart films.
Chinatown is an excellently constructed modern noir with a standout performance from Jack Nicholson. The pacing does plod occasionally, yet is compensated by the rich visuals, exciting (yet very brief) action, and highly disturbing ending. A solid classic.
Synopsis: A wife hires a private detective to lead an investigation on her husband.
Chinatown is a film of immense sophistication and glory, everyone involved went on to stardom because of it. Robert Towne wrote Chinatown specifically for his friend Jack Nicholson and in a year dominated by The Godfather Pt II he won the Oscar for best screenplay. It is a tale of complex and compelling puzzle and mystery surrounded by colossal performances from the brilliant cast. It truly is a great Film Noir and definitley up there with Double Indemnity and Kiss me Deadly. This is Polanski's masterpiece and it is his genius that sets this film apart from your average noir, he brought his own emotions regarding his wife's death and poured them into the script and direction, making it more than just an intelligent and intricate narrative but instead and magnificent disturbing portrayal of something darker. Chinatown his a tough brutal ride of betrayal and bitterness right down to the unforgettable ending that the film is famous for - a masterclass of acting and directing run together with an impressive script and wonderful screenplay.
It was Polanski true brilliance that makes this film what it is, he realises with razor sharp perception the collection of oddballs, miscreants and victims littered throughout the film. Matched with a mighty impressive performance from Jack this film seems to ooze style while at the same time remain gritty and grimey in its portrayal of the underworld of L.A - fine cut suits, fedora hats and slick criminals make this film a rip roaring detective thriller with a hard motive. It took me a couple of watches to get my head round this incredible film, filled with tiny details and symbolism of power and wealth. The film seems to be a metaphor for L.A itself and a view into the lives that riddle it, and of course the finale suggests a look at failure and hints at disaster. The films little hints are as mysterious as the plot itself and you can some times get muddled up in the craziness of it all, i sat there stumped trying to figure out the connection with water etc. Along with Jack, Faye Dunaway plays her respective role perfectly, the little snippets of seduction that shows elegance and yet the wickedness about her character are what makes it work - she seems to represent the underlying impression of darkness and the dark underbelly, despite this she also has an air of emptiness about her, maybe because of her loss or that she is trying to appear hurt but it seems the men in her life have left her sou-less.. The way she moves is always suspect, and though not generally obvious, the film allows you to follow and pick up them along with Jake so that you feel part of the investigation. Despite this it is Jack's film and it is Jack who rules the stage, not once is he upstaged against the other members of the cast, he seems to love playing the wisecracking, cocky snoop - not too sophisticated and yet not too cool Jack is the middle man in the mystery that circles L.A and he thinks everyone is trying to stop him. He seems perfect for the part, and even after all his films i have seen since, i still represent Jack with Jake.
Apart from its social agendas and complex imagery the film is overall a very 'edge of your seat' roller-coaster ride of twists and turns. You never seem to be able to predict where the film is going unlike other lazier Noirs. It keeps your guessing without giving to much away, giving you hints and then throwing them in your face with a brilliantly paced revelation. This all makes for a riveting story as you can never become bored because you have to see this one out to the end, no wonder the screenplay won the Oscar, this is one of the greatest most imaginative stories ever put to celluloid. It doesn't let up and it doesn't give you a rest, once you get on your with Jack right the the final shocker of an ending. Technically brilliant as well you will be thoroughly impressed with the lighting and cinematography that Polanski uses, not too long ago i consider this one of the best shot films ever made, and though i have now seen better it still ranks among the best of them.
Chinatown is a film that despite being out for 35 years this year, I had failed to ever see until last night. Being a big fan of the work of Roman Polanski and the acting of Jack Nicholson, I was looking forward to watching it. Jack Nicholson looks young and at some angles quite a lot like Matt Damon (perhaps one of his 3901 children!) does today in fact, during part of the film where he gets his nose sliced with a knife, he looks quite comical with a bandaged up nose!
The film itself is of the film noir genre and is wonderfully produced so that it has a true authentic 30s feel (or at least what I'd expect the 30s to feel like, I'm no coffin dodger!), the story is full of suspense and makes a good murder mystery, Jack Nicholson's character (Jake J) is a thorough private dick who can't leave his past as a policeman behind and finds himself wanting to get to the centre of things despite really having little need to.
A noticeably enjoyable thing about this film is the film score which is particularly effective in the scarier scenes. Despite some nice twists, a few wise cracks and some very bizarre happenings, this is no Rosemary's Baby.. and doesn't really have a shock factor. I saw the end coming and there were no surprises, this left me with a bit of a disappointing feeling as I felt the film had built itself up only to fall at the final hurdle. Despite lots of clever detail and as an overall well produced film, I can't help feel that it has aged a bit and didn't really have a big kick to it.
Chinatown is a well scripted, superbly directed piece of film that fits effortlessly into the category of dazzling film noir. The ?she slid into the room like slick honey on a warm, summer afternoon? genre. A good piece of film noir is like a good fairytale. Once upon a time in a gritty, seedy city there lived a Private eye, hard bitten and tough who had a weakness for beautiful women and hard liquor. The lady was beautiful, vulnerable and hid a dark secret. Like her knight in shining armour the PI came to her help and beheld a cruel villain casting his dark shadow over her tragic life. Chinatown is and isn?t in many ways typical of the genre it uses and for the most part this is down to the director Roman Polanski. Readers may have come across and admired director Roman Polanski?s latest masterpiece ?The Pianist? that gripped the world and the Oscars in 2002. He is also less well known for films like ?The Ninth Gate? (the strange Johnny Depp Satan film) and ?Rosemary?s Baby?, both works showing how Polanski is intrigued by the complex, darker imaginations of the human experience. Chinatown was his first film on returning to the United States after the murder of his wife Sharon Tate by serial killer Charles Manson and his gang. The production team felt that a foreigner?s perspective on the film would make the complex and intelligent script come to life and indeed, for a film set in and around LA, very little of city is actually seen. Instead Polanski likes to set his locations and key moments in the desert, dried river beds or orange farms outside the city. The only true homage given to the city itself is Chinatown, the key to the characters and the stunning climax of the film. Jack Nicholson gives a flawless performance as Private Eye JJ Gittes, a man who specialises in unmasking adulteries. While investigating another routine adultery case he comes across a plot involving murder, intimidation and mystery somehow connected to
the city?s drought problems and surrounding the life of the beautiful Evelyn Cross Mulwray (played to perfection by Faye Dunaway). Polanski clearly revelled in casting Dunaway who had acquired a squeaky clean on screen persona as a femme fatale. The villain of the movie Noah cross is perfectly portrayed by John Huston whose gruff, coercing, bass voice faultlessly expresses the bullying, dark menace of his character. The dialogue in the film is punchy and clever, unravelling the mystery while keeping the viewer intrigued in the characters. The well crafted interactions between the different characters expose strong emotions and secrets. Apart from one famous scene of female assault Nicholson?s PI is the strong moral force of the plot, sticking his nose is where it clearly isn?t wanted. Look out for a brilliant cameo from Polanski himself, playing the character cast as ?man with knife.? The film itself is beautifully directed. If you are of a fan of film noir you would be forgiven for believing that the best are shot and work in black and white, e.g. ?The Maltese Falcon? and ?The Big Sleep.? Your preconceptions of a PI would be based on Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade, and the acting of Humphrey Bogart. Chinatown belongs undeniably in the genre and is no less brilliant for being a film shot in colour. Extras on the DVD include an interview with Roman Polanski and the writer on their experiences of making this unusual movie.
This film was released in 1974, but apart frome being filmed in colour you would never know. Because this film noir is set in the 30's and, thanks to beautiful production, is firmly rooted in the 30's. From the credits you know exactly the mood and style of the movie; an old font type rolls over a sepia coloured background to a mournful opening theme, this then moves to shots of some black and white photographs. Even the colour in the movie has a washed-out and faded quality. Jack Nicholson is fantastic as Jake J. Gittes a hardboiled private investigator who yearns for far more than the snoop jobs he keeps getting; he gets his wish. Evelyn Mulwray hires him to follow her husband, the L.A. water commissioner, whom she suspects is cheating on her. While more than a little disappointed Jake takes the case, especially as the woman is rich and more than willing to pay. He is taken aback when the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) comes to see him, upset by what Jake has uncovered and the fact that it has found it's way into the newspapers. A combination of the ignominy and the chance to be involved in a noble case for once, sets Jake off on an investigation which uncovers corruption in the water department at a time when the city is crippled by drought.To say any more would just spoil the film and that would be a shame as the labyrinthine plot holds you to the very end. Roman Polanski directs the piece beautifully. The gorgeously rendered 30's clothes and sets evoke a feeling from a less tainted time, which makes the twists all the more disturbing as you find out how far from innocent the people really are, the end truly leaves a sickening taste. I have already mentioned how good Jack Nicholson is, but there is no shame to doing so again as this is a powerhouse performance. You never tire of seeing him even though he's in virtually every shot. Faye Dunaway is excellent in a role where she seems to be simultaneously
strong and fragile. John Huston's performance is also very good as Evelyn Mulwray's father Noah Cross, the biblical name is no accident as it emphasises the reoccuring water theme. It's fitting he should appear in a movie like this as he arguably created the genre with the terrific Maltese Falcon. Roman Polanski also appears in a great little cameo. The movie was nominated for no less than 11 Oscars and, cruelly, only Robert Towne's powerful script won, however it was a tough competition with the likes of The Godfather part II and The Conversation also appearing that year. The video and audio on this disc are excellent. The anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen picture does show a little dropout but it's a very small amount and, as the film was made in the early 70's, is not unexpected. The sound is a Dolby digital 5.1 track that, while it's not going to blow your rear speakers away, is crystal clear. The one problem I have with the disc is the extras. The usual trailer is provided but is not remastered and so the sound and picture quality are quite poor. There is also a short interview featurette with Roman Polanski, Robert Towne and the producer Robert Evens. They regale us with a few production insights and stories, which are interspersed with clips from the movie. It adds up to a rather unimpressive 13mins and 33secs but is still nice to have. While you get little more than the movie for your money, the disc beautifully restores a genuine classic and that is worth a lot.
This is (in my opinion) one of the best films ever made which explains the nickname I have given myself. I will now try to prove why the film is so good. Written by Robert Towne it is prehaps one of the best ever scripts written. To begin the plot is superb to say the least (I will write this believing people have seen it so if you haaven't seen it look away if you dont want it spoilt). The story follows 'some kind of a man'- Gittes (Jack Nicholson) a guy who was obviously once upon a time a cop, a detective to be more precise. Now after leaving the job because it disgusted him so much he works on adultery cases. Not honorable work but thats how he earns a living. In the film he is asked to solve yet another adultery case involving a mysterious woman claiming to be 'Mrs Mulwray' and from here this is where the plot begins to take all kinds of twists and turns continually fooling the viewer. The plot is very Raymond Chandler in style and it is almost as though we the viewer are following the infamous Philip Marlowe. Right up to the end the film succeeds in keeping the viewers full attention. The end of this film is prehaps one of the best ever created and something the director Roman Polanski should be proud of. When Mrs Mulwray (the real Mrs Mulwray played by Faye Dunaway) is killed, understandably we feel great sadness and if a tear rolls down your cheek you should not be emabaressed by it, simply due to the fact you have just witnessed the most artistic beautiful ending a film can possess. The finishing dialogue is so wonderful it adds to the realism of the situation, the scene you have just witnessed. It is not until the end of the film until you can fully understand why it is called ChinaTown. It is impossible to put into words all I can say is that Gittes tried so hard to get out of workingg in ChinaTown as a result of what he saw and what he was made to do. Then finally he ends up in China Town onece a
gain to witness a stunning young woman being killed 'as an accident'. All the dialogue in this film is magnificent from the 'screwing like a Chinaman' joke to the references of Jake Gittes past. The cast is particularly impressive consisting of: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez etc etc and ofcourse the director himself Roman Polanski playing the cruel 'man with knife'. All actors and actresses in this film are at their best and complement eachother just aswell. Each character is adorably believable and prehaps some too realistic in their cruelty. The camera work, directing and overall style of the film is what will make you love this film most and want to see it again. It is Film Noir at its best, done so well that you will belive every second of it. Adding to this wonderful film noir style is the music by Jerry Goldsmith. This style of music is like no other and you will not forget it and how it fits in so well with the style of the film. The film is perfect! What can I say to criticise it? I cannot actually think of anything to criticise this film except maybe to give you people out their some interesting facts: Polanski believed a film called China Town should have at least one scene set in Chinatown. This went against the writers idea that Chinatown was just meant to be a metaphor.Polanski won the argument. Polanski's first reaction to the script was to say 'I should have stayed in Poland'. He spent most of the film rowing with the writer, photographing topless women and telling Faye Dunaway to 'Just say the f***ing lines- your salary is the motivation' when she queried her motivation. Nicholson was very charming on set but may have been the one who supplied the urine in a cup that Faye Dunaway threw in Polanski's face. But anyway to summarise my opinion on this film I hope people can see what I'm trying to
say about my favourite of all films. that I believe it is one of the best down to the fact that their is very little one can criticise of it.It is one of those films that makes you think.Think alot about the world around us and the little lives we lead.As well as this it is a film that makes us sad, sad for the characters, this is thanks to great characterisation. Only a good film can succeed with good characterisation and thus make us feel sad for the main characters when unfortunate situations occur. It is a film done well, done to perfection. every element of this film is magnificently created so well done and it proves that film making is an art. An art that maybe some people don't appreciate I'm not sure about other people but I sure love it!
Chinatown is the only film-noir movie I've seen that uses sunlight ironically. If film-noir by definition deals with dark subject matter, what's all the brilliant sunlight for? Robert Towne's script is a perfect assemblage of complexity and coherence; the plot twists are never misleading and add to the story, not detract from it. Director Polanski was also lucky enough to catch Jack Nicholson in his prime; he is perfectly cast as slimy and yet vulnerable Jack Gittes. Faye Dunaway is also superb. She was in her prime too, with Bonnie and Clyde behind and Network yet to come. It is also beautifully photographed, with golden daylights remembering a more golden age, and serene sunsets and nights. Underneath is the evil of murder, theft, and incest. Think of all of the elements. Its like a Hitchcock filmography of props: B/w photos, dead decoys, bi-focal glasses, water basins, broken taillights, the eye of a fish, bandaged nose, a sister, and a daughter. Jerry Goldsmith's musical score echoes loss and tragedy as everything comes to a rousing, murderous halt There is genius in not showing Chinatown (the place) until the end of the movie; it represents the idea that all dirty secrets reveal their tragic consequences only after a miserable and dogged search for truth. A must-see for true film buffs. ps. apologies, middle initially missing...
Chinatown has to be one of my five favourite films of all time. It is totally flawless. The directing by Polanski is his best ever. The acting by Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston is first rate. The script by Robert Towne won an Oscar, the music by Jerry Goldsmith is haunting an eerie and the production design is so good you actually feel like you are watching a colour movie from the 1940's. I don't want to describe the plot as the film is best seen without knowing anything about it. There are a few distrubing scenes so be warned, but you cannot live life without seeing this fantastic film. How Godfather Part II beat it to Best Picture in 1974 is beyond me (although I'll probably get lynched for saying that).
Chinatown is one of the best detective films since the 40/50s film noir. It tracks private detective Jack Gitties's investigations as he is drawn into a world of corruption. Great performances from Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunnaway with amazing chemisrty between the two. When watching the film you feel truely endulged that you are watching a truely good piece of cinema history. There are a couple of nasty scenes, such as Jack getting his nose slashed open by a mobster which hit you really hard, as they should in a well made film, yes, this is another point for Roman Polanski and Robert Town.
A private eye is involved in a seemingly routine snoop job that mushrooms into a murderous regional and personal scandal.