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Crime, Drama, Thriller, Mystery
IMDB rating:
Roman Polanski
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
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.
"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.
Stylish and intriguing
Stylish and intriguing.

Los Angeles in the early-1930s. A private detective, JJ Gittes (played by Jack Nicholson), is hired by a woman to investigate her husband, as she suspects he is having an affair. Her husband, Hollis Mulwray, is the chief water engineer for the city of Los Angeles. Soon after Gittes delivers the photos that seem to confirm her suspicions, he meets the real wife of the man. Intrigued, Gittes investigates further. Then Mr Mulwray turns up dead...

A clever, slow-burning thriller from director Roman Polanski. Information is gained slowly, heightening the intrigue. Many red herrings, and detours. Nothing is obvious. To make things even more complex, there's not just one plot line in play...

Very film noir like in its feel. You could easily see Humphrey Bogart as Gittes...

Good work by Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in the leading roles. Good support from John Huston.

Not perfect though. The movie loses momentum in the last third or so, focusing on a lesser plot and amplifying the detour by an extended wild goosechase. Ultimately this sub-plot is necessary, to an extent, but it needn't have had so much time devoted to it. Just when the movie was ready to kick up a gear, having idled along previously, it went sideways rather than forward.
a classic that improves with every viewing
Roman Polanski's wide screen, Depression era detective story is more than just another anachronistic homage to the film noir gumshoes and femme fatales of yesteryear. The serpentine labyrinth of corruption uncovered by tough but intelligent private eye Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) involves nothing less than the consolidation of greater Los Angeles itself, where the most tainted currency of thieves isn't money, but water. This is one of those rare productions where every element seems to fall into place, from Robert Towne's exciting, original screenplay to a definitive performance by Nicholson to John Huston's unlikely but effective portrayal of what must be one of the most depraved villains in screen memory, a man who, by his own chilling admission, "is capable of anything." Music, art direction, editing and photography are all first class, but the true test of any classic is longevity, and in this regard the film passes with flying colors by actually improving with each viewing.
An early predecessor to L.A. Confidential
Film noir is a genre that consists a sense of pessimism. It is a style in the cinema that can be described as dark, depressing and twisted. In the film noir world, the cops are crooked, the women are devious and the hero is a man who can't seem to understand anything that is being investigated. By the end of this long-lasting journey through intrigue and mystery, you will find the truth and the truth will or can be deceiving.

Enter J.J. Gittes. Gittes (Jack Nicholson), is a hard-working private eye, who's specializes in eavesdropping on cheating wives and husbands. His job consists of dropping onto a conversation between the cheating wife or husband and snapping photographs of the two of them together. One day, Gittes finds out that a client wants him to take pictures of her cheating husband. The husband is a chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Learning that he is building a reservoir and that people are opposing his construction of the reservoir, Gittes decides to follow the chief engineer around, taking photographs of him and his adulterous lover. Now, you might think I am telling the first half of the story. Well, I am. The reason why is because the story of Chinatown is a lot twisted than you think.

After Gittes finds out about the cheating husband, he soon finds out that the woman he met in his office is not the same woman he met before. Enter the second character of the story, Evelyn Mulwray, (Faye Dunaway). She is the actual wife of the chief engineer. But, who was the client that was in Gittes' office? Anyway, Gittes continues his investigation and winds up having his nose cut from a punk, (Roman Polanski), and having to find out that water is the main clue of the murder. But, wait a minute.... The chief engineer is in control of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Why would someone kill him?

The story deepens as Gittes meets up with Noah Cross, (John Huston), during his investigation. Now, there are two people involved in this mystery. More clues start to pop up. And Gittes? Well, he's in way over his head. I guess the truth is going to be hard to get to.

Chinatown is in the great tradition of the film-noir movies of the 1940's. In fact, the story takes place in 1937 Los Angeles. Director Roman Polanski creates a very dark and disturbing underworld where sometimes the truth can lead to dangerous circumstances. The set direction and costume design are very well done and builds a certain amount of authenticity as both a period picture and as a film noir movie. The way Los Angeles is portrayed as a city of mystery is great because there is so much going on in this metropolis that we, as the audience, are caught between two ongoing problems: the water issue and Gittes' investigation.

Jack Nicholson is perhaps, one of the best and most hard-working actors of our time. He creates, what I think, one of his best and most memorable performances in his career. He portrays Jake Gittes as both a man and a detective, who understands something about bad luck since he been to that place. Here, his presence makes the film works because he can't seem to penetrate this strange and mixed up world that seems different to us since he can't understand everything he's given. The more he feeds himself into this world, the more knowledge he will gained. Every time he gets closer to the clues, he ends up having to be drawn back to himself. One scene that proves this point is when Gittes' nose is cut by Polanski. Every step is dangerous, according to Gittes.

I also enjoy and really admired the performances by Dunaway and Huston. Dunaway is stunning as Mulwray, creating a character, who at first, isn't pleased by Gittes' joke, but soon comes to terms and becomes Gittes' helper as she begins to explore the underworld with him. Together, you might think that there's a chemistry between the two, but really, these two characters are somehow locked up in this underworld, where everything is not what is seems to be, according to the characters. John Huston is very convincing as Noah Cross, a man who's questions are startling to Gittes since he is crossing that invisible line between discovery and the truth. In one scene, he advised Jake, "You don't what you're dealing with. You just don't"

Robert Towne's screenplay for the movie is a captivating script that is filled with authentic dialogue, which illustrates the world of 1937 Los Angeles and also creates sharp conversations between all of the characters. There are a lot of great well-written and well-spoken lines in Chinatown that can be dared to be said.

I wish more storytellers can tell more stories like this one. It is also equivalent to a great book, one that you can't simply put down. I have had that feeling while watching Chinatown. I just couldn't stop watching and for the most of the time, I was more focused on every bit of detail and aspect that this movie had to offer. The first time you might not understand everything that is being done. But, when you see it the second time around, you will understand how everything falls into place. In fact, maybe we can learn something about the littlest details, like water. ★★★★ 4 stars.
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.
Jake Gittes, Right Up There With Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe
In Chinatown, Jack Nicholson gets one of his best roles, definitely in the top five as Jake Gittes, a throwback private eye to the forties of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Had Chinatown been made in the Forties Humphrey Bogart who played definitive versions of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe would definitely have been cast in the role of Jake Gittes. Nicholson however is one worthy successor to Bogey.

Very little action takes place in Chinatown in Los Angeles and only some peripheral characters are oriental. What Chinatown is here is a metaphor for a place you don't want to go and a culture and way of life you cannot penetrate or understand. Back when Gittes was a cop he was stationed in Chinatown and always felt alien there. He couldn't do his job because he didn't understand the people.

Gittes goes back to Chinatown so to speak when he's hired by Diane Ladd to shadow her husband. It's the kind of peep job Nicholson is used to and he does. Later the husband turns up dead and it turns out Ladd was posing as the wife. The real wife Faye Dunaway shows up and threatens to sue him.

Nicholson keeps on digging and he comes up with a juicy political scandal involving a scheme to defraud essentially the whole city of Los Angeles with their water supply. But he comes up with far more than that involving Faye Dunaway's personal life.

The lead villain here is John Huston in probably his greatest role before the camera with only The Cardinal as a rival. Huston is Dunaway's father, a rich gazillionaire who can just about buy everything and everybody and usually does. But as it turns out he's far more malevolent than that, a truly terrifying evil soul.

Faye Dunaway does a great job playing a woman carrying one huge burden on her soul. Look for good performances by Perry Lopez as the dogged police lieutenant trying to keep everyone happy and Diane Ladd as the hapless fake Dunaway.

Chinatown is one timeless film and will be getting raves centuries from now.
This film is perfect. I cannot find any flaws in this movie whatsoever. This is Jack Nicholson at his best he is completely engulfed in the role, and in a way there could not be a J.J. Gittes without Nicholson. Faye Dunaway is no exception, she is just as precise as Nicholson, and the two compliment each other throughout the film continually. Polanski is a brilliant director. The mise-en-scene of this film is really unmatched. Everything comes together to give the audience the amazing experience of the movie. The scenery of the desert is perfect for this film. Everything about this movie leads up to the final scene, where you realize that even if you do everything right, and try as hard as you can to do the right thing it does not work out. This film is sometimes categorized as a neo-noir, and the ending satisfies that classification.
Fiendish but sophisticated classic that demands revisits
Roman Polanski's CHINATOWN has classical film-noir elements, but the beating heart of the movie lies in Polanski's own bag of tricks and oddity; he twists schoolbook-stuff around and adds misguiding, bizarre moments and characters, adding to the movie's intelligent narrative. Because anyhow, Jack Nicholson as Jake Gittes is a gritty feature, he's experienced failure from back when he was a policeman in Chinatown, something that we only get through mysterious hints. Ad Jake's a well-dressed, humorous and classy man, but also cynical and impulsive and doesn't affect by walking around with a bandaged-nose most parts of the film. This is a hard-boiled detective-mystery which spins its complicated puzzle into something disturbingly dark, in which Faye Dunaway's terrific performance as the elegant Evelyn holds the movie's dark core as she acts like a classy femme fatale, with suspicious motives. CHINATOWN is one of those conspiracy-thrillers that demands a revisit, not only because its twirled plot is so intriguing, but because of Polanski creating a unforgettable, dark atmosphere of originals and one of Nicholson's greatest performances as he investigates his way down through greed, murder and incest.
"You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't."
In 1937 Los Angeles, a grasping tycoon (John Huston) takes control of the city's water supply and causes a drought, while a private eye (Jack Nicholson) takes on a case involving the tycoon's daughter (Faye Dunaway), which entangles him in a major scandal.

Chinatown is a brilliant mystery, written with an astute sense of narrative architecture and played to the hilt by a terrific cast, including Nicholson, who has never done better work than his portrayal of the insouciant Jake Gittes. It's a rare thriller, one that addresses itself to serious moral and public policy issues while remaining gripping, exciting and finally heartbreaking. In 1991, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
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