Here’s another of my Blindspot films – films which I have identified as a blind spot in my watch list, films that I probably should have seen already but have finally committed to actually watching in 2015. I recently watched Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), a neo-noir mystery film starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. Its synopsis is as follows:
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. (source)
What happens when you watch a film so good that you literally feel unable to write about it? Generally I write one of my ‘Thoughts On Film‘ posts instead of a full review because my brain is too overloaded with awesomeness to formulate coherent thoughts. Here are some of my thoughts on this excellent film. Forget it, Anna of Film Grimoire, it’s Chinatown.
- I initially believed my favourite Faye Dunaway performance to be her hammy and crazy role as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981) – NO WIRE HANGERS, EVER! – but I actually think her performance as Evelyn Mulwray in this has beaten out the hamminess of Crawford.
- I am also generally a Jack Nicholson fan because I find him to be one of the most charming actors of all time. Just look at how he hit on Jennifer Lawrence that one time.
- Nicholson’s charm knows no bounds in Chinatown, as wisecracking private eye Jake Gittes. A great performance.
- I also love that he spends the majority of the film with a big bandage over his nose.
- Polanski’s cameo as the nose-cutter was great. His accent was bad though.
- As with pretty much all of Polanski’s films, Chinatown has an amazing buildup of atmospheric tension that reaches a fairly devastating conclusion. This seems to be his directorial forte – films that take their time to develop tension and drama, only to shock and surprise at the very end.
- The film has many great noir-style shots, with excellent use of smoke and shadows as per the style of the original film noir genre.
- Polanski seems to love shots where smoke is filtering from one unseen person into another room. I’ve noticed that he had shots like that in both Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
- The music is also really wonderful – what feels like really 1970s-style sound effects and synth noises mixed with jazz music from the 30’s. A nice musical anachronism that doesn’t feel too out of place, but does feel slightly dated in a sentimental way.
- My only real criticism of Chinatown is that it does seem quite long for a noir film. At approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes, some moments feel slightly laggy, although I do acknowledge that Polanski uses his time well overall.
- I’m glad I finally got to see this. I still can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before, but I did really enjoy it and can now recommend it to others.
Watch the trailer here.