Thursday, April 05, 2012


Written by Robert Towne
Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston

Man with knife: You know what happens to nosy fellows? Huh? No? You wanna guess? Huh? No? OK. They lose their noses.
(Man with knife cuts Gittes' nose.)
Man with knife: Next time you lose the whole thing. Cut it off and feed it to my goldfish.

The last line in Roman Polanski’s CHINATOWN is perhaps one of its greatest ironies. “Forget about it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” These words are said to Jack Nicholson’s private investigator, J.J. Gittes, just moment after his entire world comes crashing down upon him and just moments before the camera pulls up to reveal one of the most infamous closing shots in film history. The irony, of course, is CHINATOWN is completely unforgettable.

The 1974 classic, which takes place in 1937, holds up incredibly well. Polanski places the viewer at the center of the investigation, which results in an addictive need to know where every bewildering turn is going to lead. And with Nicholson’s Gittes in every single scene in the film, we as an audience are given the opportunity to watch the case he is working on unfold in real time and piece together the evidence ourselves as well. And what a case it is! Robert Towne’s Oscar winning original screenplay (the only Oscar the film won out of it’s 11 nominations) is dense, engaging and constantly shocking. While Gittes is trying desperately to stay on top of a murder case that may or may not directly involve the woman who hired him in the first place (Faye Dunaway in her prime), the city of Los Angeles is in the process of figuratively raping its farmers in pursuit of redefining its borders. It is all somehow connected and its your job to figure it all out. It might take two viewings.

The brand new blu-ray release contains some recycled extras that shed more light on the controversial Los Angeles backdrop, as well as provide some pretty candid insight into the production itself, with archived interviews from Polanski, Nicholson and Towne. New to the set is a commentary between Towne and huge fan, David Fincher. CHINATOWN is simply a must for every film fan’s collection.


Sam Fragoso said...

I will definitely look into the Blu-ray.

Great review Joe - as always.

Black Sheep said...

Thank you kindly. If I was writing a full length film review for Chinatown, there would so much more to say. Such great depth!