Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown is a detective movie by director Roman Polanski and writer Robert Towne. Set in Los Angeles in 1937, the mystery is built around a real drought problem back then. The characters wear elegant costumes which are pleasing to the eyes. Jack Nicholson never looks so cool!

The story is told from the point of view of detective Jake Gittes, our hero (played by Jack Nicholson). Usually handle marital problem's cases, Gittes is hired by Mrs Mulwray to spy on her husband, Hollis Mulwray, the chief enginner for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Gittes follows Mr Mulwray but it seems in the man's head there is only water and water, until at last Gittes gets pictures of Mulwray and a girl. One of the pictures makes it way to a newspaper, but who sends it and why? The real Mrs Mulwray comes to Gittes's office and says she will sue him, and only at this time Gittes realizes that the woman who has hired him is not Mrs Mulwray. Gittes looks for Hollis Mulwray to warn him that he has been set up, but the engineer has been drown and the girl, his mistress, is missing.

This is a story about greed and corruption. I read that this was supposed to be the first of a trilogy. Jack Nicholson directed and starred in the 2nd, The Two Jakes; but as this was not successful as the first, the project for the 3rd was given up.

The answers to the mystery is unfold little by little and we find the answers with Jake Gittes. This movie has several unforgettable moments, like when Gittes's nose is cut (by Roman Polanski who plays a thug) and when Gittes slaps Faye Dunaway's character, Mrs Mulwray, to make her talk. "She's my sister... She's my daughter... She's my sister..." Mrs Mulwray tries to say to Gittes. It's rather funny, I must say, or perhaps I remember a parody of this scene - though cannot remember where.

Although this is given the title 'Chinatown', only in the last scene Chinatown is used as a location (but Gittes was a police officer in Chinatown), and that was after Roman Polanski insisted to. The dark ending shows that it's hard to fight corruption and it's common to turn a blind eye, like this movie last line: 'Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.'

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