- Directed by Roman Polanski
- June 20, 1974
A private investigator hired to expose an adulterer is pulled into a web of deceit and murder in 30s LA.
Chinatown is a great piece of 70s cinema. It most assuredly deserves its classic status. it is a mystery with twists and turns. There is deceit and red herrings and intriguing characters. It immerses you not only in its world but the environment that it creates. There are complicated characters with secrets and agendas of their own all handled by a talented cast.
The legendary Jack Nicholson was fantastic in the role of Jake Gittes. He was in his physical and acting prime in this movie. His Jake Gittes is a detective of the hardboiled variety. Cynical and distrusting yet Nicholson makes the character rather charming.
The femme fatale of Evelyn Mulwray in this story is played by Faye Dunaway. She’s a fine actress and a legendary screen beauty who makes her Evelyn a slightly unstable character. You can tell from the start that she is not only holding something back but that there might be a little bit wrong with her.
John Houston also stars in this film as the very wealthy Noah Cross. Cross is a dark man with schemes and an agenda all his own. He even shares a rather disturbing secret with his daughter Evelyn which in the end plays a significant role in the story but that is nothing that we would not expect in a story like this.
That there alone is a strong cast. Three talented actors at the top of their game. How can you not have a great movie? And this is a great movie. From the costumes to the sets to the cast to the direction everything just comes together so perfectly.
There a few faces in this film that you’ll recognize from works from the 70s and 80s. Burt Young is probably the most recognizable one as he went on to play Paulie in the Rocky films afterwards. James Hong, Bruce Glover, and John Hillerman all have roles of varying degrees and are recognizable from this and that.
This was a first-time watch for me, and I rather enjoyed it. There is a lot of action but there is also a lot of talking. I’m not talking straight exposition but rather character interaction. And there are clues sprinkled along the way. Word of warning: this is not a movie you can get up from and leave running. If you do get up you should rewind a little bit or you run the risk of missing something. Your attention is required of the narrative. Not enough these days requires active viewing.
I expected the area of Chinatown to play a more significant role in the story than it did. Seriously. You put a place in the title it should be the center of the action, but it is just where Gittes worked his beat as a police officer. I know that may be a bit petty, but it annoys me. ’Chinatown’ is a good title though.
Chinatown is very much a film noir. There are twists and turns and competing agendas. My major complaint about this movie’s story is the resolution. I just think the way it ended was just too neat. It felt to me like everything got wrapped up a little to clean considering everything they tossed into the story before that.
The plot centers around Los Angeles water rights and a significant drought and draws its inspiration from historical events. The California water wars were a series of disputes over the water in southern California at the beginning of the last century. The merging of fact and fiction gives this film a feel of authenticity.
I am a fan of older Hollywood films and I definitely like the costuming and the sets and everything. They did a great job of capturing the 1930s here. It felt like it was filmed in color during the classic era of filmmaking.
Chinatown is a well-done film noir and psychological drama. It has great performances and multiple layers to the story and will keep you watching from beginning to end. This is a must see!