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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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As perfect as possible
It's difficult to imagine a more flawless movie than this. A youthful Jack Nicholson is at his very best and most plausible in the role of Jake Gittes, featuring in a continuously engaging story, which can be appreciated as a timelessly sophisticated tribute and homage to Chandler. Each scene and every moment of the swiftly evolving plot is redolent of intrigue and anticipation. Dunaway and Huston are also superbly cast, as are Burt Young, Diane Ladd, Perry Lopez, and the entire list. The acting and direction throughout are uniformly professional and superior. I was particularly struck by the old lady in the retirement home. The script is exceptional, and the dialogue totally polished and realistic. There are one or two lines which are directly evocative of Chandler at his best.

For anyone with an IQ above moron level, even if only slightly, it is worth investing a profitable two hours of their life watching this film. It is guaranteed to provide enjoyment and will extend their sensibility and general perception to a very great degree. Audiences expecting a mindless crime thriller will naturally be disappointed, as it is highly intelligent, though ultimately shockingly tragic. The relationship between personal conflicts and the wider ramifications of civic and corporate crime and corruption is unusually subtle. Chinatown is an area of enigmatic impenetrability, which is better left alone. Polanski excels himself. A matter for amazement that this masterpiece languishes as low as 127 on the top 250 list.

Some time ago I was discussing movies with a friend's daughter, who is married to a man in the film business. After much thought we mutually decided that Chinatown was probably the best film both of us had ever seen. I just watched it again, for the umpteenth time. This is a wonderful, wonderful film. A clockwork jewel of precision.
Riveting and gorgeous classic film with evocative settings , wonderful cinematography and rousing soundtrack
Fascinating mystery thriller in the Dashiell Hammet-Raymond Chandler style about an eye private who becomes involved into a complex criminal intrigue centering municipal corruption, and uncovering corruption , land sell , incest and murder . 1930 , City of Los Angeles , a private detective named Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is contracted by a woman (Diane Lane , Laura Dern's mother) claiming to be a Mrs. Mulwray to spy on her husband . As Jake investigating an adultery case stumbles on to a scheme of murder that has something to do with water . Shortly after Gittes (Jake Gittes was named after Jack Nicholson's friend, producer Harry Gittes) goes to the Town Hall where he learns about ¨The Van der Lip Dam disaster¨ is a reference to the collapse of the St Francis Dam in 1928, 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, which had been designed by self-educated engineer William Mulholland , the consequent flooding killed at least 450 people, a loss of life that remains second only to that from the San Francisco earthquake and fire in California's history . Later on , he is hired by the real Mrs. Mulwray (Femme Fatale Faye Dunaway, after Ali MacGraw was discarded as she lost the role when she divorced him for Steve McQueen, producer Robert Evans wanted Jane Fonda for the part of Evelyn Mulwray while Roman Polanski insisted upon Julie Christie ,when Christie passed on the script , then was to Faye) who appears in his office threatening to sue if he doesn't drop the issue immediately. Gittes goes on his mission anyway, slowly uncovering a vast conspiracy centering on water management, corruption , real estate, and involving at least one killing . After that , there appears a hood (Polanski who knifes Nicholson) who slits Jake's nose (it was extremely complex to shot by using a specially-constructed knife with a short hinge that they began to claim Nicholson's nose was actually cut).

It is a splendid film in noir tradition and considered to be one of the best film about this genre . This exciting movie packs mystery, tension, nail-biting scenes, strikingly suspense and colorful images . Interesting and thrilling script by Robert Towne who wrote the screenplay with Jack Nicholson in mind and deservedly won Oscar for the best original screenplay . The Chinatown screenplay is now regarded as being one of the most perfect screenplays and is now a main teaching point in screen writing seminars and classes everywhere. This was the first film of a planned trilogy about corruption in the development of Los Angeles. It was set in the 1930s and was about the water department and in the original script, no scenes took place in Chinatown at all. . The second film, The Two Jakes, was directed by Jack Nicholson in 1990 and was set in the 1940s and was about the gas company. The third film of the trilogy was about the building of the massive freeway system and was to be called "Cloverleaf", named after the famous interchange in downtown L.A., but it was never filmed. Awesome acting by Jack Nicholson ,because this film was the first of a planned trilogy, Jack Nicholson turned down all detective roles he was offered so that the only detective he played would be Jake Gittes. At the time of filming, Jack Nicholson had just embarked on his longstanding relationship with Anjelica Huston , this made his scenes with her father, John Huston, rather uncomfortable. Secondary cast is frankly magnificent such as Burt Young , John Huston , Diane Lane , Perry Lopez , James Hong , Bruce Glover , among others . Roman Polanski wanted William A. Fraker as his cinematographer, having successfully collaborated with him on Rosemary's Baby, but this notion was blocked by producer Robert Evans .Cinematographer Stanley Cortez was fired soon after production began because his classical style did not match the naturalistic style Polanski wanted for the film and proved too time consuming , Polanski had to find a replacement in only a few days and chose John A. Alonzo. Emotive as well as sensitive musical score by Jerry Goldsmith , including unforgettable leitmotif ; though Phillip Lambro was originally hired to write the film's music score but it was rejected at the last minute by producer Robert Evans, leaving Jerry Goldsmith only ten days to write and record the new score. The motion picture was stunningly directed by Polanski (Repulsion , Rosemary's baby , The pianist , Bitter moon, Frantic, Dance of vampires) . This is the last movie Roman Polanski filmed in the US and resulted to be the 15th biggest grossing film of 1974. And 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #21 Greatest Movie of All Time. And ranked #2 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Mystery" in June 2008 .
Roman Polanski's Caustic Neo-Noir is So Compelling that "You Can't Forget It"!
It's Los Angeles, 1937. Jack Nicholson's private detective Jake J. Gittes is not a primal masculine archetype, but rather a complicated protagonist. Far from cool and collected, he is simply self- possessed, with a sense of control that's highly illusory and much of the film pivots on undercutting his misplaced self-confidence. The film immediately establishes his less-than-ideal persona via his work snapping pictures of adulterous spouses, a lowbrow form of detective work that is typically beneath the more admirable private eyes. He's looked down on by the law and treated as something of a sordid but necessary evil by his clients, but Jake realizes that's just how the game is played. Soon enough, though, one of those clients, a mysterious woman named Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray finds a way to use Jake's scurrilous reputation to set him up for a fall. His ensuing attempts to clear his name put him on the trail of a case that's bigger, more complex and wide-ranging than anything he's used to, coming up with more rot than he bargained for. One that goes, as they say, all the way to the top!

A convoluted mystery that begins with a visit from a femme-fatale, an ironclad cynical detective with a code of honor, and a spider- like villain weaving a web at the center of the story are all familiar elements of a hard-boiled detective film. But trust Roman Polanski to make disillusionment seductive and resurrect the almost dead format! What he does so brilliantly in Chinatown is import the soul-sick paranoia of 1930s Los Angeles into its depiction: the eponymous Chinatown is less of a physical presence than a state of mind - it's a lurid fantasy, an idea that hovers constantly around the fringes of the movie making it an ultimately intangible maelstrom of deceit, regret and confusion in which the only thing you can be sure of is that everything you know is - to one degree or another - wrong. Robert Towne's labyrinthine script keeps the proceedings thrilling, humorous and disturbing at the same time, pepped up greatly by the crackling dialogues.

The film also boasts career best turns from its star-cast led by Jack Nicholson, who is absolutely charismatic as Jake Gittes, as we find ourselves solve the mystery alongside him as he follows lead after lead through a labyrinth of sticky situations. His Gittes is a layered character and Nicholson makes his depth visible to the audience. Faye Dunaway's vulnerability constantly tempts us with the notion that she is the victim, rather than the villain, in a performance that still has the power to shock. Outright villainy is instead embodied by Noah Cross, an incredibly vile portrayal by John Huston. He gives Noah a false air of courtly manners that, if anything, only adds to the character's sense of debauchery.

Notoriously bleak, yet utterly compelling, Chinatown remains a magnificent dissection of corruption right up to its enigmatic finale. The brute force of its ugly truth is the heart of the film's artistry, and it sticks with us. And it might be just a state of mind, but Chinatown still retains the power to bruise and scar to this day.
Reputation outlived the replay...
So this film is not recommended? Not so fast! When noir is mixed with other genres, it is the noir that music be in the forefront, for my entertainment value. If not we have a murder mystery detective film with a dash of old school homage. The story here is both predictable as it is suspenseful and without the big screen presence of jack Nicholson may have not been anything more of a Roman Polanski diversion. The Los Angeles story is a great one to build around, but the "you don't know who you're messing around with" angle has been further exonerated from ingratiating gangster or back story horror plots decades ago and was left with a lack of follow through here. John Huston' villain carried as much weight as Marlon Brandro did in his later years. Big name, hot hair. Faye Dunaway is lost in this role after owning her strong role in Bonnie and Clyde and Network. Possibly my expectations outlived the replay.
A very classy, consistently engaging and dark detective story
Jake Gittes is a former cop turned private detective. When he is contracted by a Mrs Mulwray to find out if her husband is having an affair, he takes to trailing Water Company Executive Hollis Mulwray. Mulwray appears to only have water and a dry riverbed on his mind but eventually they catch him with a young woman, although almost immediately the news gets leaked to the papers and Mulwray goes missing, only to turn up dead. At this point the real Mrs Mulwray comes to Gittes threatening to sue him for his involvement and Jake realises that he had been set up to set up the Mulwrays. He continues his investigation into the murder only to find a conspiracy involving thousands of gallons of water being wasted during a drought and the mysterious presence of Mrs Mulwray's father, Noah Cross.

As a fan of film noir and tough detective movies, I am too often put off by modern entries into the genre that try to replace atmosphere and intelligence by just having nudity and swearing; the genre managed atmosphere without these in the forties and fifties but yet modern films seem to rely on them. With Chinatown however, everything works well as a homage to the best years of the genre and, as such, is very well set in the period and is of suitable presentation even if the material and tone is darker and harder than would have been allowed years ago. This is not to say it is just a copy and paste from better films because it isn't and indeed stands out as one of the best detective noirs I have seen in ages. The plot is always going to be the most important thing and it gets it spot on throughout, doing the proper thing of starting with a simple story and continually building it more and more complex as it goes. Unlike some other "classics" of the genre, Chinatown manages to do this without ever losing the audience and I found the plot to be both rewardingly complex but yet still very easy to follow.

Needless to say, things are very dark and the script is convincingly dark and miserable, leading to an ending that is as depressing as I've seen – not so much in what actually happens but also in the wider implications for the characters that the credits prevent us from seeing. Director Polanski does a great job of putting this story in a lush setting that produces a real strong sense of period but also manages to always be showing us the darkness coming through subtly throughout the movie. Of course it helps that he also has a great cast to work with. Jack Nicholson is iconic in this role and, if I had to pick one film to act as an introduction to Nicholson then it would be this one. He is tough yet damaged, upright but seedy and he brings out his complex character well. Dunaway has less screen time but is just as impressive with a similarly dark role. Huston adds class and manages to ooze menace while also coming across as a harmless old man. The support cast are all fine but really the film belongs to these three, with Nicholson being the stand out role.

Overall this is a very classy film that has stood up very well to become a well-deserved classic. The story is complex, mysterious yet simple to follow; it is dark and seedy without relying on swearing or nudity to set the atmosphere. The direction is great, with a real atmosphere and sense of time and place that is matched by a great collection of performances delivering a great script.
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......
Overrated Mystery
I had heard so much about this movie from word of mouth that it was one of the best films ever created and possibly the best film noir ever. I had extremely high expectations for this movie, and when it was over I considered it a piece of trash.

The story is about city curruption and making money by taking over the water for the growing city of Los Angeles in 1930. It doesn't even sound interesting. Jack Nicholson is great as his role and it's fun to watch him in any movie, but that didn't make up for the screenplay. The biggest shocker in the movie was that Faye Dunaway's daughter was her sister as well, and her father, the man who was racketeering the water was the father. I could absoluetely care less, the child could have been anyone's and still had a zero effect. Nicholson is repedeatly chased by his old partner who secretly wants to arrest him because he thinks he murdered Faye Dunaway's wife, who was a city worker in charge of water, although Nicholson had absoluetely no motive, because he didn't know Dunaway before he took the case. The ending is horrible as well, it doesn't really matter.

If you want to see a good movie made in 1974 see Godfather Part II, it made Chinatown look like a pile of sh*t. Very overrated movie, doesn't deserve to be anywhere near it's place (#19) on AFI's top films of all time.
An incredibly rich film
Everybody's already commented on the ingenious screenplay and the amazing characters, acting, direction. I've only seen the wide-screen version, but I can't imagine that a formatted version would be able to retain the full beauty of this film. The film makes ample use of the whole screen and the film comes across remarkably refreshing all these years later. The use of sound is also very effective--whether it's a dripping faucet, the buzzing of insects or the endless other tiny details that have been crammed into Chinatown.
Sad Story Of Corruption
Roman Polanski directed this complex but fascinating story of corruption that stars Jack Nicholson as private detective J.J. Gittes, who is hired by a woman named Evelyn Mulwray to see if her husband(a water department official) is cheating. It turns out he is, but things take a strange turn when the husband is found dead, and the woman who hired him was an impostor. The real Evelyn Mulwray(played by Faye Dunaway) claims to know nothing of the affair, but Gittes continues to investigate, which leads him to wealthy land owner Noah Cross(played by John Houston) who has shady dealings going on, and also wants to find his granddaughter, which Evelyn knows something about... Superbly directed and acted film is quite uncomfortably cynical and downbeat at times, especially the ending, but remains a fine(updated) throwback to classic film noir.
Roman Polanski created a perfect movie with Chinatown. The movie is tour-de-force with top notch performances. The screenplay by Robert Towne is nothing short of excellent. The movie works so well on so many levels (Noir, detective story, love story, character study) and is full of twists and turns. Utterly enjoyable! This movie is sheer classic. It totally deserves to be in the AFI top 20 of the 100 greatest.
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