Is there anything I can say that will make you see this movie? If you’re interested in film noir or the classics, you undoubtedly already heard about it. And the same goes if you’re just another person who likes watching good movies. I can tell you what prevented me from watching it for many years: I thought it was too outdated. I thought that it was too outdated and I didn’t want to watch a movie about some guy working in Chinatown. Both of these things turned out to be not true. Although this is a movie from 1974, it’s still extremely relevant today. You should also know that Chinatown is inspired by *(spoilers) real events.
When it comes to the picture quality, the restored, remastered, enhanced, and denoised version I watched looks like it came out a couple of years ago. And there’s a single scene taking place in Chinatown. This is a sprawling mystery that will keep your eyes peeled on the screen ’till the end. I urge you to give this movie a chance. Just hit that play button and see how you feel about it. I’m not going to guarantee that it’s going to blow you away but there’s a strong possibility of that. Chinatown is an intelligent, immersive, and highly effective slow-burning neo-noir thriller and one of the best movies ever made.
Hell, Robert Towne’s script is part of the curriculum of many universities. However, the first thing you’re going to notice is just how good Roman Polanski is at bringing this masterpiece of a script to life. I know, I know, now we have to unpack the whole Polanski thing. But remember what I always say, separate the art and the artist and you should be fine. Direction here is above all effective. The next thing that’s going to hit you is the sheer quality of the acting. This is one of Jack Nicholson’s best performances and it’s Jack we’re talking about here. It’s only rivaled by John Huston’s rendition of the water baron Noah Cross.
Faye Dunaway was also excellent as a version of Femme Fatale you empathize with. The final nail in the coffin is the mystery that’s oozing from every scene and every character. At first, you look at the events unfolding on the screen as a series of unconnected mishaps and then you start to see a pattern. As the pieces slowly start to fit together they reveal that they’re also just a piece of a bigger puzzle. Twisting and turning, the story never runs out of steam ultimately exploding in one hell of a finale. Moreover, everything unfolds from the perspective of our protagonist, private detective Jake Gittes.
This means the viewer will get the same clues and basically live through the whole ordeal as him. And since Chinatown is one of those immersive movies where you can just disappear in. And its replay value is huge. In fact, you can play the movie after just a couple of days and start to notice all the little things you missed in the first run. Imagine, you can become one of those annoying people who rave about it incessantly. We will be following our PI Jake as he gets a new job from the wealthy wife of a high-ranking city official. She thinks her husband, Hollis Mulwray is cheating on her and she wants Jake to prove it.
He takes the case thinking it’s going to be easy but ends up involved in something he never dreamed of. I know it’s going to be a bit difficult to decide on watching a fifty-year-old movie with a runtime of two hours and ten minutes. You have to be in the right frame of mind to watch and if you’re not now, that’s okay. Maybe you’ll be next year or in ten years time. Whenever that happens just know that the magic of Chinatown is patiently waiting for you. The seventies were really great when it came to noir movies. Just one year later we got one of my favorites Night Moves. And two years before that one, Serpico starring Al Pacino came out.
Moving on, Chinatown is basically a movie about corruption, greed, and morality. It’s a movie about life and our society and as such it still remains relevant today. I wonder what are the latest examples of corruption in your city, town, or village? I can tell you that I’ve read in our local newspaper that a 100-year-old building, a city property, is going to be sold at an auction. When I say auction what I really mean is a fixed auction where you can already guess the buyer, the same company that’s been building shit all over the town for the past ten years.
Everybody knows this, the newspaper report it and nothing happens. As little as possible, as Jake says at the end of the movie. There’s a distinct darkness and cynicism to this movie that makes it just so damn engaging. It makes it feel consequential and important, like you’re watching something both educational and entertaining. And that fucking nose-bandage, who made that iconic decision? And what about the detective watch thing he uses to find out when the car left the hotel? It’s stuff like this that gets me hard, if you know what I mean. Finally, there’s a sequel to this movie, Two Jakes, that’s okay, I guess.
Director: Roman Polanski
Writer: Robert Towne, Roman Polanski
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez, John Hillerman, Joe Mantell
Fun Facts: In the scene where Jack and Faye are arguing towards the end of the movie, Jack slaps her for real. They’ve tried several times to make it work with the fake slaps but they were not doing the job.