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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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finest ever screenplay to emerge from Hollywood
Robert Townes scripts probably the finest ever screenplay to emerge from Hollywood, once again reaffirming America's choke hold on the summit of film. An unforgettable narrative achievement that gives us something different every time we have the pleasure of sitting down and re-watch Roman Polanski's (Rosemary's Baby) seminal noir pastiche to the 30's made popular by the like of the Maltese Falcon, but still in its own rights; Polanski architects a detective film masterpiece. It was even placed 3rd greatest screenplay of all time, by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) amongst such titles as Casablanca, The Godfather and Anne Hall, which arguably I feel is the greatest of them all. Starring Jack Nicholson in what I believe to be a career defining performance, even surpassing his Oscar winning exploits with One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and even his ever chilling performance in The Shining. Chinatown starts off as just another mundane detective TV drama, as a distraught wife; appear in Jake Gittes office requesting a private eye to solidify her suspicions of her husband's infidelity.

But just like in life, nothing is ever what it seems, and just like life, Chinatown is as unpredictable as the English weather, as from that moment in the office, we suddenly swept up in a whirlwind of excitement, tensions, laughs and shocks; as we find ourselves in a ever engulfing circle, consisting of millionaire corruption, murder, sheep, farmers. But when you thought that was it we sprinkled in some incest and water scandals for good measure. As we are placed side by side with Jake on his roller coaster ride through kicks to the head, cuts to the nose and a steamy love affair with a woman Fane Dunaway also from Bonnie and Clyde) who may just be the key to his eventual downfall, helping in laying down the foundation to one of the most ironic ends in film history.

They said Michelangelo had a hard time painting the sixteenth carpel in a lifetime; imagine trying to keep a piece of art like Chinatown in a review of 500 words or less, now that is a miracle. Because Chinatown is a magnificent cinematic and technical achievement that may never again be rivalled in American cinema. The film is so good, I feel that it should be compulsive watching in all film schools for all young writers and directors with dreams of a career in the film – actually better yet forget film school, just sit at home and watch Chinatown, that's the only film education you really need. So don't be a feel, stay out of school and watch Chinatown.
Expertly crafted neo noir.
"I don't want to nail you. I want to find out who put you up to it."

A drought-stricken, late 1930's Los Angeles serves as the backdrop to this neo noir starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. What starts out as a seemingly routine job for a private detective of shadowing a cheating spouse, balloons into a murky mystery involving murder, greed, and long-hidden secrets.

I had to watch this twice, because the first time I was a bit distracted and didn't get the full experience of the movie. These kinds of films require you to pay as close attention to the details as the detective who's the protagonist of the story, in order to fit all the pieces together. The mystery of what's going on has several layers that are slowly revealed as the story unfolds, Dunaway and Nicholson are brilliant playing off one another, and the ending is truly memorable and perfectly reinforces the theme of the movie. This is a flick that almost any fan of the genre will enjoy.
A Dark, Twisted Trailblazer
A film that is more talked about than seen these days, Chinatown is nonetheless one of the most significant films ever made, and it sits at a unique precipice in cinematic culture. Starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and somewhat hilariously, John Huston, it is the story of a private investigator sent to snoop on a cheating husband only to later find that husband turned up dead, setting off a chain of events that leads to the top being blown off a major conspiracy that runs deep into the roots of early 20th century Los Angeles.   It's a shame that the only part of the film the average film-goer knows about is the most famous line, "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown." That's a wonderful line, but out of context, what does it mean? Nothing. You could guess or even infer, but unless you've seen the film, it might as well be sitting out on an island. Even you know the general plot of the film, as I did before watching it, you don't get the full impact of the line.

Film quotes stick in the meat of popular culture not just because they're fun to stay or because they role off the tongue, but because they're built up to beautifully and because they hit with a force that sums up the emotions of the moment. Quoting them only works if those present know the film itself. Imagine how absurd it would sound to say, "May the Force be with you," to someone who's never seen Star Wars. They would get the gist of what you're saying, but they wouldn't get the reference or the connotations.

The "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown" line works much the same way. There are situations when it would be appropriate to say this, but there's no point if no one in your party has seen Chinatown. For those who have, that line conjures up so much rage, frustration, despair, cynicism and tragedy. It carries a lot of weight.

Neo-noir films are rarely happy affairs (the word noir even means black in French), but this film goes the extra mile. Back in 1974, the neo-noir film was rare. Traditional noir films had not been popular for some several decades, and even those were limited were the Hays Code and the culture of the time. This was a new animal altogether, and so as the film gets darker and the situation more disturbing, you end up feeling as revolted as Jack by the end. When the last night falls and you see the lights of Chinatown for the first time, you feel like you've come the end of an exhilarating, hideous, psychotic day and want it all to be swept away.

A lot of influences went into this film. There were old school noir influences, of course, but there were also influences from the then-cutting edge crime films of the day, as well as the psychological thrillers that had started to proliferate in the late 60's and early 70's. There are also literary influences; I was surprised to learn this was not based off a novel. It is very much a novelist's film.

But the most startling influence is that of Westerns. This works in two ways. First, the film takes place close to the turn of the century, a time not too far away from the settings of Westerns. The dark, cynical Westerns this film is most like took place in the 1880's, in the twilight of the West, after the land had been tamed. Second, the noir film had- at least from an American perspective- grown out of the Western: many of the same ideas, concepts, and perspectives are present. The noir was 'replaced' by the second wave of Westerns that came up during the 50s and 60's: Sergio Leone and like. In the 70's, the Western was in a Golden Age. Heaven's Gate had not yet come out. The genre was booming. America still had use for it, particularly in an era when we as a people were feeling rather lost and alone. Chinatown is neo-noir springing up from the second wave of Westerns, just like that second wave sprang up from original noir flicks.

The characters and acting in this film are first class, and despite some strange choices here and there, the plot pulls you in deeper into its black heart. This is a mystery in the truest sense of the word. There are so many layers to pull back in the seedy L.A. streets, so many secrets to carve out. The titular Chinatown is used to great effect, first as an idea, then as a place. The characters, particularly Nicolson, are perfectly cast.

This is a film that puts its competition to shame. It digs its claws into you and doesn't take them out. It's a definite must-watch.
Not for me, but if you're into 70s and noir, you'll really like it
Chinatown is supposedly one of the best films of all time and of the 70s. Maybe it is, but it's not for me. You really need to have a taste for 70s filmmaking and noir to appreciate this in its' fullest. I grew up in the 80s and 90s and always had a tough time praising movies of the 70s.

The movie has plenty of good qualities such as the style, acting, intricate story lines, surprises, dialogue, and mystery. It's a good film, but I couldn't see all the universal praise it gets unless it's from people who grew up in the 60s or 70s.

I fell asleep on consecutive nights while trying to get through it and finally finished it on the third try. While it is interesting and very intriguing, it didn't necessarily "grip" me the way that a mystery/crime drama/thriller would be expected to. The most gripped I was during the whole movie came on my third try to finish it when Nicholson basically domestically abuses Mrs. Mulwray and she reveals something very disturbing. Shocks like this are always riveting, but I was more disturbed than impressed with the reveal. Maybe this was gratifyingly controversial and provocative for 1974? It didn't really work for me.

While the film has classic qualities, without a doubt, by the end, for all the light it had shown at times for me, it sort of dimmed down a few points and I'll settle for a solid 7/10. It's a classic crime drama story and film that I highly recommend for that genre's list of originals, but outside of the hype, which by now appears to be bandwagon, I don't see how it's considered one of the best movies of all time. Good, but not great. 7/10
One of the best film noir/homage films ever made!
"Chinatown" is so good, it's scary. Jack Nicholson is Jake Gittes, the iconic private eye hired to spy on the husband of a woman who suspects he is having an affair. What Jake soon uncovers is a vast conspiracy involving local tycoons and water - heading towards a great conclusion with a classic surprise ending.

"Chinatown" might not be the best film noir ever made but it is certainly one of the best. Like "Indiana Jones" it is a loving homage to its source - in this case movies of the 1930s, 40s and 50s such as "The Maltese Falcon" (most obviously!) and lesser-known film noirs such as "D.O.A." (which no one else I've seen so far has mentioned in comparison to this, but it does have its similarities).

Nicholson is absolutely superb in his role, playing Jake with all the touch panache of an instant classic anti-hero. This was certainly a movie of the 1970s, with its anti-hero being the guy we come to root for.

Robert Towne is a genius and I may seem to be giving "Chinatown" loads of fanboy praise but I can honestly say that I'm not obsessed with it in any way, in fact I've only seen it a few times. But it's just a really, really great movie that's perfect in just about every way - direction, acting, screen writing, cinematography, editing, sound...the list is endless. Polanski deserves as much praise as Towne I suppose, because his direction is flawless and very noir-ish. (If that's a suitable description.)

Overall, this is a classic - for good reason. After seeing this and "L.A. Confidential" within a few days I can say with confidence that "Chinatown" is much better, and will probably be more fondly remembered years from now.
Water Water Everywhere
I was so glad to see that this great film of almost forty years ago is still being reviewed at the IMDb site. Great film critics have given this film its due credit over the years. I saw it when it first came out in 1974 and then again recently on a friend's home theater screen. And many times in between. Viewers should read what else they can about Chinatown to gain further insights to its mastery, but one of the great masterstrokes is the way the script weaves "water" into the film...and water is what the key crime is all about...the one Jake Gittes has to solve. Lack of water (an L.A. drought) is the setting; one of the characters is named Noah; water is the murder weapon; and water is characterized as the builder of a great city. Shaping a key image like this is just one of the ways this script excels. A great film.
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.
a very complex and interesting movie
this movie will definitely draw you in real quick, and it definitely kept me interested throughout. its about a private detective that gets into a case pretty deep, there's a water shortage in LA and he wants to figure out why, but he find that everyone involved is a bit more powerful. the story is certainly a work of art, it's very complex and unpredictable, and that's really what i liked about it. Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway were really great together, i couldn't of a better pair for this movie. i thought the directing was pretty darn good too. i think there could have been some slightly more flashy camera work, but the lighting was really good throughout. conclusion: it's a very good movie, just be prepared for some unexpected stuff.
"You know what happens to nosy fellows?"
Roman Polanski's landmark, marvelously complex, classic film noir masterpiece, which is a fascinating mystery which is set in 1930s Los Angeles. Private detective J.J. Gittes, played to perfection by Jack Nicholson in bravura performance which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, gets hired by a mysterious femme fatale named Evelyn Mulwray, played beautifully by Faye Dunaway in a brilliant Oscar nominated performance of great subtlety, to investigate her husband Hollis, the chief engineer of the water department of an extra-marital affair. Gittes is swept into a web of double dealings, deceits, political scandals and murder, all leading to an unforgettable and powerful climatic in 'Chinatown.' Masterful direction by Polanski, with a captivating and intelligent Oscar winning original screenplay by Robert Towne, stunning cinematography by John A, Alonzo, and an evocative, dynamic score by the late great Jerry Goldsmith. This tour-de-force benefits greatly from the superlative supporting performances by Perry Lopez, John Hillerman, Diane Ladd, Darrell Zwerling, Burt Young, Bruce Glover, and James Hong. Special kudos must go to the late great director and character actor John Huston for his magnificent portrayal of the perverted and monstrously evil landowner Noah Cross. Roman Polanski makes a memorable cameo appearance as a short, sadistic switchblade wielding thug who savagely cuts Nicholson's nose. "Chinatown" stands as one of the true great classic films of 'the 70s. A cinematic treasure that was nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director: Roman Polanski. Highly recommended.
Proves it's not just a noir poser; superb thriller
For my money, Jerry Goldsmith's "Main Theme" for CHINATOWN is one of the all-time great pieces of film music. Both seductive and melancholy, it instantly evokes the period setting of the film and the ridiculously bleak nature of the story.

And it is one hell of a story; a grade-A film noir with a unique Water & Power angle that serves as a red herring to the real narrative substance. It's well-written and proves John A. Alonzo was one of the great cinematographers (there's some brilliant shot composition here). But it really comes down to the core cast. Nicholson fits into the PI mold well, both educated and crude around women, while John Huston, playing a monumental scumbag, brings the affable charm to really highlight the menace. Faye Dunaway ably pulls off the femme fatale component, until we realize that she's the film's heroine . . . unbelievably tragic though that is.

It's the kind of movie that gets under your skin and stays there. Both the ending and final line are a testament to '70s filmmaking, with the balls to forego a happy epilogue for all involved. You couldn't make this movie today, and it sits on the top-shelf with the finest movies of its decade.

It just gets better with every watch.

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