Director-Roman Polanski

Starring-Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway

Top 100 Films-#30

Scott’s Review #321


Reviewed January 3, 2016

Grade: A

Chinatown is like a perfectly aged fine red wine- with each passing year or viewing, it becomes more and more spectacular. A thinking man’s film, if you will, Chinatown is a complex puzzle, just waiting to unravel in a layered, complicated fashion. However, this is to its credit, as it is a fantastic, rich, film noir, and as good as cinematic writing gets. Set in the 1930’s the set pieces and art direction are flawless- as great a film in look as in story.

Director Roman Polanski and star Jack Nicholson are largely responsible for the success of the film. The direction is a marvel as the cinematography, flow, and pacing are astounding. A slow build, the film takes off at just the perfect point as the mystery gets deeper and deeper, building to a crescendo.

Nicholson plays Jake Gittes, a handsome Los Angeles private investigator hired by a woman claiming to be Evelyn Mulwray. Evelyn desires to have her husband followed, as she suspects him of an affair with another woman. Jake begins tailing the woman’s husband, only to uncover an intriguing mystery involving the Los Angeles water supply. Soon, the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) turns up and the film segues into a masterful web of complications and turns of events. You will not see the ending coming.

Certainly, Nicholson leads the film as only he can. With his charismatic, aww shucks attitude, mixed with humor, he is eye candy for the camera, as he takes the case and becomes more and more immersed in the action. This film was a pivotal point for him as he began a slew of worthwhile and abundant performances in pictures.

Let us not forget to mention the acting performance of Dunaway, Smoldering, sexy, classy, intelligent, and vulnerable, she plays almost every emotion in a flawless manor. Chinatown, Bonnie and Clyde, and Mommie Dearest (yes, Mommie Dearest!) are her best works in a career that spanned well of a decade in successes.

Chinatown is an entity unto itself in film noir. It is incredibly well written, nuanced, and flawless.¬† This film simply must be seen. The final thirty minutes- in addition to the “great reveal” is also violent, shocking, and extraordinary. A blueprint of what great filmmaking truly is.

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