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Crime, Drama, Thriller, Mystery
IMDB rating:
Roman Polanski


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Jack Nicholson as J.J. Gittes
Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray
John Huston as Noah Cross
Perry Lopez as Escobar
John Hillerman as Yelburton
Darrell Zwerling as Hollis Mulwray
Diane Ladd as Ida Sessions
Roy Jenson as Mulvihill
Roman Polanski as Man with Knife
Richard Bakalyan as Loach (as Dick Bakalyan)
Joe Mantell as Walsh
Bruce Glover as Duffy
Nandu Hinds as Sophie
James O'Rear as Lawyer
Chinatown Storyline: JJ 'Jake' Gittes is a private detective who seems to specialize in matrimonial cases. He is hired by Evelyn Mulwray when she suspects her husband Hollis, builder of the city's water supply system, of having an affair. Gittes does what he does best and photographs him with a young girl but in the ensuing scandal, it seems he was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray. When Mr. Mulwray is found dead, Jake is plunged into a complex web of deceit involving murder, incest and municipal corruption all related to the city's water supply.
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One of the top 100 films of all time
The year 1974 was very memorable. That year several films were successes which consisted of Francis Coppula's "The Godfather:Part II",Alan Pakula's political thriller "The Parallex View",Robert Aldrich's "The Longest Yard",and not to mention the disaster epics of the day;Irwin Allen's "The Towering Inferno",and Mark Robson's "Earthquake" not to mention the films "The Conversation",and "The Great Gatsby","Lenny",and "Blazing Saddles" to name a few. But one film in particular stood out from all the rest and it shows why that was one of AFI's 100 top films of all time.

The year was 1974. The motion picture is "Chinatown". This was the movie that cemented Jack Nicholson as a bonafide superstar throughout the entire decade of the 1970's. This was the movie that started it all.

Jack Nicholson graduated from star to superstar playing a gumshoe in this marvelously intricate film noir of the 70's directed by Roman Polanski,who has a memorable cameo as a sadistic hood,gives Nicholson the most famous nose job in motion picture history. Robert Towne's Oscar winning script(whom they used in some acting and writing classes as a learning tool in some colleges)brilliantly depicts 1940's Los Angeles as a glittering cesspool of murder,incest,and corrupt land deals. Faye Dunaway steals the picture with a haunting performance as the film's alluring female fatale,and John Huston,as her creepy millionaire father,will make your skin crawl. The stunning finale still packs an emotional wallop. "Chinatown" was the apex of what the cinema of the 1970's was about to become,and this was the prime factor of that as well.

The film was nominated for 11 Oscars including Best Picture and won three for Best Original Score(Jerry Goldsmith),Best Screenplay(Robert Towne),and Best Supporting Actor(John Huston).
Very impressive
So I finally watched one of the most iconic films ever made. The mystery and suspense in Chinatown is fully-blown as a neo-noir film. It perfectly captures the time period in which it takes place, and its central story is very well-written. The performances are fantastic, the highlight being Faye Dunaway, whose only other performance I have seen is Network and she plays both characters with such precise distinction and force. The cinematography, art direction, and music give it the right mood as well, and the ending is quite brilliant, in fact, perfect. Overall, I don't know if I would say I loved it, but this is a film I can see revisiting in the future no doubt about it.
A classic thriller
Chinatown is easily recognised as a classic film, being one of Jack Nicholson and Roman Polanski's best films. This film came from a golden age of American age and can easily hold it's own against other classics from that period.

Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a private investigator in 1930s Los Angeles in the middle of a drought. He is hired by Evelyn Mulwray (Diane Ladd) to follow her husband, the Chief Engineer of the city's Power and Water Department, who she suspects is having an affair. Gittes photographs with a young woman it gets leaked to the press. But the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) shows up in Gittes' office, threatening to sue him. Soon Gittes is thrown into a big mystery when Mr. Mulwray is found dead and Gittes uncovers a web involving the water department, real estate deals, political corruption and a dirty family secret.

Chinatown has a film noir visual, style and storytelling but does not suffer the restrictions that though films had to go through. Robert Towne was deserving of his Oscar win for Best Screenplay, delivering a complex story, real characters and combined with the acting and subtle direction makes for a very compelling thriller. Polanski keeps the film going at a fast pace and it also feels episodic because of the way the narrative shows how Gittes solves the mystery and uncovers clubs. It could have worked as a TV miniseries, but of course it is a great film anyway. This is a film that is allowed to be a more darker with it storytelling, the type of story it can tell (particularly with the twist) and be able to show more violence.

The acting is excellent, Nicholson is great playing a sleazy anti-hero who has a charm about him, willing to use underhand methods but still at heart not evil, a man with some morals and just wants to get his job done. Dunaway starts off as a confidence woman, who personae is slowly eroded as more of her past is revealed, starting with her change of personality because of the mention of her father. John Huston has a real sense of menace every time of he was on screen.

Chinatown is a glorious looking film, from the cars, to the art direction and to the costumes. The simple score by Jerry Goldsmith is able to soak you into the story and everything had the feel of film noir, but with the twist of being alike a 70s thriller. It is a perfect blend.

Chinatown is an essential film, a well made thriller that should please fans of 70s cinema.
L.A. as neo-Noir Wasteland
Directed by Polish-born Roman Polanski, Chinatown (1974) is often credited with reviving the classic film noir detective/crime genre exemplified by such '40s and '50s American films as The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, and Touch of Evil. While classic film noir is characterized by low lit, black and white cinematography, Polanski managed to infuse Chinatown with a profound sense of corruption and nihilism while setting his tale amid the relentless blazing sunlight of a Southern California drought and despite employing two photographic elements previously thought antithetical to film noir style: color film stock and anamorphic widescreen composition. Chinatown's great critical and popular success demonstrated once and for all that the essence of film noir lay mainly in its bleak moral vision, not its cinematographic style.

Seizing full advantage of the 1968 demise of the Hollywood Production Code and the subsequent liberalization in American cinema's treatment of sex and violence, Chinatown builds upon the film noir tradition of exploiting and exploding social taboos. Take, for instance, the central plot function of incest or the notoriously brutal scene in which Jake Gittes has a protruding part of his anatomy nearly cut off (no, not literally that part - but the phallic implications are clear and played for sly comedy in subsequent scenes). Yet Polanski also added an entirely new dimension to classic film noir by linking up its darkness with the paranoid/depressive mood of post-Vietnam, post-Watergate America, thereby extending the noir sense of corruption beyond the mean urban streets and to high governmental and privileged economic places. Chinatown may be set in 1930s L.A., but its soul is in the 1970s.

Like earlier film noir private detectives, Chinatown's protagonist, Jake Gittes (a role Jack Nicholson was born to play) is derived in large part from the cynical, wisecracking, "hardboiled" detective popularized in 1930s novels by such writers as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Also like many earlier film noir works, Chinatown adopts a storytelling point of view that is analogous to a mix of "first person" and "third person limited" narration in the novel. Such a viewpoint immerses the audience in a subjective search for truth within a maze of deceptive appearances, recognizing or failing to recognize clues (the "bad for glass" seawater in the Mulrays backyard, the obituary column, Noah Cross's bifocals) just as Gittes does and not a second sooner. Indeed, Chinatown is very unusual in the degree to which it sustains a subjective narrative viewpoint, often punctuating it with clever point of view shots using binoculars, camera lenses, car mirrors, and a variety of Peeping Tom setups.

Gittes's perspective proves to be much more unreliable even than that of classic film noir era private eyes. Like Chandler's Philip Marlowe and Hammett's Sam Spade, Gittes is courageous and resourceful; like them and unlike the police, he is governed by a code of honor, however unconventional or self-defined. Nevertheless, the world in which Gittes operates is far less redeemable by the actions of a detective hero than was the mid-twentieth century world of classic noir and eons remote from the optimistic 19th century world of such English detective novel heroes as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. Repeatedly in Chinatown the private eye code either fails to function or is subject to mockery - until, in the film's shocking last scene, Gittes fails for a second time to save a damsel in distress and is led away mumbling "do as little as possible" while a bought police force ushers the innocent Catherine Mulray into the grasp of her rapacious grandfather/father.

Chinatown's representation of another archetypal film noir character, the femme fatale, significantly departs from original film noir conventions as well. The casting of vampish looking Faye Dunaway in the role of Evelyn Mulray would seem to fit well enough, but what happens to the character in the plot and what, even more disturbingly, we learn has happened to her in the film's back-story is not at all in keeping with classic noir. Evelyn's alluring deceptions and even her nymphomania are ultimately the effects of her quite literal violation by patriarchal power, not another instance of female sexuality ruthlessly wresting power in a man's world. If in classic film noir the death or exposure of the femme fatale is requisite for whatever moral redemption is extracted from the darkness, Evelyn's brutal death in Chinatown marks a plunge completely into the darkness.

Of course central to the structure of Chinatown is that most noir of all cities, Los Angeles, centered here on its eponymous "Chinatown" district, where the film's plot climaxes. The scarcity of water in Polanski's Los Angeles transforms the city into a symbolic spiritual Wasteland akin to T.S. Eliot's. But here the fisher king won't die because he is an all-powerful capitalist/father figure willing to "do anything" without moral restraint. Played in a great piece of postmodern self-reflection by John Huston, the father of film noir, Noah Cross is also a figure of the Anti-Christ. Note his ironically doubled Biblical name, his favorite lunch (suggestively Christian fish served with the heads on!), and his power over water, which he diverts not to liberate any chosen people but to line his pockets and own everything he possibly can, including "the future, Mr. Gittes, the future."

Few, if any, American mainstream films have bleaker, more nihilistic resolutions than Chinatown. And few are more powerful or memorable.
a crime drama at its best
Chinatown is a crime mystery psychological drama film; the screenplay in this 1974 classic is one that is way beyond its time and it will take years before another masterful screenplay can match the Academy Award winning screenplay of Chinatown. The screenplay was done by the Robert Towne (who you will know for his writing in the Tom Cruise Movies The Firm in 1993 Mission Impossible in 1996 and Mission Impossible II in 2000) who decide not to adapt the novel The Great Gatsby (1974) handed to him by producer Robert Evans but Towne wrote his own and Chinatown was the result of his writing.

The movie had a tragic ending with Robert Evans the producer, intending the screenplay to have a happy ending but Polanski stuck to his gun for a tragic ending, he is quoted to have said "I knew that if Chinatown was to be special, not just another thriller where the good guys triumph in the final reel, Evelyn had to die." Director Roman Polanski (who won the Oscars for Best Director for the 2002 movie The Pianist) won a Golden Globe award for Best Director for this movie, Polanski shut the whole movie from the sight of J.J. Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) he was in every scene of the movie and when he was knocked out the who screen went black till he woke up.

The movie plot is about a private investigator J.J. Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), whose main job is tailing partner's clients who are suspected to be having affairs.

He was hired by a woman to help find out if her husband Hollis I. Mulwray is having an affair, he tails him and finds him with another woman, takes pictures of them and releases them to the papers, all to get sued the next day by the woman Mulwary was with, as Gittes found out that the woman who hired him is actually a phony and that the woman he taught was Mulwray's mistress was actually Mulwray's real wife.

Polanski also appears in this movie in a cameo as the gangster who cuts Gittes' nose.

A sequel to this classic was titled The Two Jakes which was released in 1990. Jack Nicholson reprises his role as J.J. Jake Gittes and also directed the movie, with Robert Towne returning to write the screenplay. The sequel was a total failure though.

Chinatown is one of the few mystery films that will keep you on your seat till the very end as you eagerly wait to see where the entire strings tie up, as the movie composes plots and sub plots all leading to a grand and memorable ending.
Prettied up, lots of familiar twists, but well done, surely, and with Nicholson in top top form
Chinatown (1974)

Not so much a film noir in style or character, but a period crime drama, set in the familiar 1930s of many noir films, and featuring a noir fixture, the loner detective.

I say this right away because Chinatown is sometimes called the last great film noir. After this point, noir films (or pseudo-noir, whatever your definition) become either thoroughly modern or openly derivative. The term "film noir" has itself loosened up to include almost any moody 1940s-style film with crime in it, which starts lose it's descriptive usefulness.

But Jack Nicholson is, really, a great detective in the Raymond Chandler mode--sassy, fearless on the surface but actually wary and a little scared in the end, playing by his own set of rules, and working mostly alone. As well made as this movie is in many ways, it's Nicholson's physical presence that makes his scenes really work. He's such a natural actor for the camera, hesitating just long enough to demand attention but not so long it becomes affected, he becomes definitive. And that's enough to make Chinatown classic.

The plot, too, is great dramatic stuff. Based in L.A., with lots of night scenes and period interiors, it circles around pretty women and rich men and corrupt politicos and dubious cops. And around water. In a way, this makes the movie prescient, almost--water being no new topic for Los Angeles but increasingly pertinent in the 1970s. Water is also a MacGuffin in the plot, a device we don't care deeply about compared to the interpersonal intrigues, the incest, the murders. All this other stuff keeps the movie, and Nicholson, going, and it's snappy and well done. It isn't exactly brilliant, though, and anyone really looking at the screenplay and following the plot might raise an eyebrow now and then, or question some of the hyperbole around the movie.

It's fun seeing director Roman Polanski appear as a jerky, power-hungry kind of thug, because maybe it fits him (though his friends say otherwise). He has confessed to raping of a young teenager long ago, but I have never heard of him actually apologizing for it. (I know that's supposed to stay outside of the analysis of the movie, and he did do 42 days in jail.) Digging further in, you can maybe see John Huston's role as a little strained (though I love Huston in general, and his presence is meant to let us connect to a previous generation of Hollywood) and Faye Dunawaye, for all her fame, is slightly cold at times, a little decorative. The movie has lots of strong effects this way, and you know that Polanski is a movie lover, and the result taken whole is a kind of bowing down to this kind of crime film from earlier on. And in that sense, every doubt I have for the movie above could be countered with a simple, "It was intended that way." And the clichés and familiar plot twists are part of an homage to the medium.

Which then begs the question--why isn't it filmed with more energy, with less prettiness? It doesn't in fact, adapt to a rigorous, stark, shadowy film noir aesthetic, but instead layers a very well done but slightly 1970s perfect, technically excellent color. Not that it should have been black and white, and not that Farewell My Lovely (filmed the next year in a really vivid, visual, film noir style in color, in L.A.) is the only way to go. But there were options to avoid making it actually too pretty, and too tame.

All of this is relative nitpicking. I go back to Nicholson. If you can focus on his role, his lines, his performance, capital P, you will be mesmerized and impressed, again and again. It is a strong movie, and an interesting one, which is a lot.
Forget Citizen Kane, THIS is the best film of ALL time. It's one of the most PERFECT and perfectly realised films yet. The acting is beautiful and masterly, every shot of John Alonzo work is perfect, J. Goldsmith's score perfectly underlines the drama and development, The direction is just right and beautifully choreographed. The script is definitely one of the best and most perfect, and everything else and everybody else is just perfect. Perfect......
Noir Without the Code
An LA p.i. gets caught up with a spider woman and a land stealing scheme that uses water diversion during a drought.

In short, the movie's the best noir since the genre's golden age. From muted colors to shaded performances to uncompromised ending, the movie's a worthy successor to the 40's classics. And that's despite the 130-minute length, twice the average. Plus, director Polanski doesn't have to meet Code requirements that compromised many a 40's feature. Thus, we get an ending that befits the general storyline, no matter how much of a downer it is for the audience.

Note that amidst a prevaricating world, Nicholson's J.J. Gittes is no noble truth-seeker in the manner of a Marlowe or a Spade. Instead, he's in it strictly for the money. So when he's trapped in the spider woman's (Dunaway) little web of deceit, it's hard to feel sympathy. In fact, Gittes is neither very likable in personality, methods or ethics. Thus, it's a tribute to screenwriter Towne that we stay involved with the storyline, despite the general absence of anybody to identify with. Then too, the plot is not so much a mystery or whodunit as it is a web of intrigue leading to someone or somewhere. That central referent of 'Chinatown' remains something of a puzzler. I interpret it as a place where bad things are done in the name of the good while everyone ignores the discrepancy. Thus, the ironical ending.

Anyhow, the movie's a first-rate noir that makes a lasting impression, and as an LA resident I'm reminded to check my lawn. I think it needs water.
As coolly intense and exceptionally-staged as any detective story/film-noir of the 40's & 50's
Chinatown is a tremendous collaborative effort that produced one of the most memorable Hollywood pictures of the 1970's. Director Roman Polanski (his last film in America, and the first he made in America after the murder of Sharon Tate), stars Jack Nicholson & Faye Dunaway, and writer Robert Towne, all come together to create a detective story classic. At times it slows its pace down so the viewer can think along with Nicholson's character, to take in the environment as well as the situation he's in (i.e. when he goes to the empty reservoir, when he visits Noah Crosses house the first time). And the script has the perfect sense of drawing us into a story, fueled by curiosity, grit, and cynicism, and engages the viewer by its realistic dialog between the characters.

J.J. Gittes (Nicholson, in one of his best 70's performances) is in Los Angeles circa 1933 in the line of private investigator, usually dealing with people who may or may not believe that their significant other is having an affair. Evelyn Mulwray feels this may be the case with her husband Hollis, and Gittes decides to take the case. However, this draws him into a deeper case involving the city's loss of water once Hollis- a major player in the water supply controversy in the city- is found murdered. This eventually leads him to Noah Cross (John Huston), a big businessman and who also happens to be Evelyn's father. Intrigue starts to develop, as Jake's own life begins to be at risk.

As a intricate, detailed detective story the film is an above-average work, with Towne's script containing the maturity, and wicked sense of humor, of a James M. Cain or Raymond Chandler novel. When the thrills come they come as being striking. And when humanity and compassion get thrown into the mix, the film reaches a whole other plane of intelligence. The last third of the film could turn off some of the audience (depending on one's own level of belief), but it holds strong thanks to the performances. Nicholson doesn't over-step his bounds in any scene, finding the right notes in suggestive conversations. Dunaway is better than expected (though I'm not sure if it's an great performance). And Huston's Noah Cross is one of the more disturbing villains of that period in movies. Add to it some good cameos (Burt Young as a driver, Polanski playing the little guy in the infamous 'knife' scene), and a smooth soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith, Chinatown comes out as strong piece of movie-making, and arguably one of the greatest in the crime/mystery genre.
Excellent film-noir
The first time I saw Chinatown I was bored out of my mind, and I fell asleep halfway through. I then woke up, two minutes before the movie ended, and thought that those two minutes were phenomenal.

When I watched this film again, I loved it, and since then, I have been praising this movie to everyone I speak to.

The film has Jack Nicholson in the main role, and he gives a fantastic performance - his best of all time if you ask me.

Our leading lady Faye D. gives a very nuanced performance, and John Huston portrays Noah Cross to perfection.

Roman Polanski directs the film, and does so brilliantly. The ending of the film is one of the most brilliantly written endings of all time, and also one of the best directed endings of all time. When the film concludes, you're left with a sinking feeling of hopelessness.

This is an excellent movie.
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