Chinatown @ Film Forum

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Date/Time: 08/08/2003 12:00 am

“>(1974) “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” In drought-ridden 1930s L.A., divorce-specializing private eye Jack Nicholson gets his nose re-arranged – by director Polanski in a memorably nasty cameo – after sticking it into the connivings of John Huston’s family-loving mogul Noah Cross and his mysterious daughter Faye Dunaway, culminating in a darkly operatic finale that brings together all the players for a showdown in the lawless neighborhood of the title. “I saw Chinatown not as a ‘retro’ piece or conscious imitation of classic movies shot in black and white, but as a film about the thirties seen through the camera eye of the seventies,” Polanski said, and he created both an homage to, and a classic of, film noir (opening with a b&w Double Indemnity vintage Paramount logo), as well as an examination of the birth of Los Angeles, with the stolen water rights of the actual Owens Valley War the midwife. The first production from Robert (The Kid Stays in the Picture) Evans’s own banner, Chinatown was originally to have starred his then wife Ali McGraw in the Dunaway part and reteamed Nicholson (in his first romantic role) with screenwriter Robert Towne, who’d scripted his hit The Last Detail. But in Polanski’s hands, it became more caustic and disillusioned – a post- Watergate, post-Vietnam excursion into the heart of darkness, made with all the resources of a major studio. Amid 11 Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Cinematography, Music, etc.), the screenplay was the only winner, despite – or perhaps because of – Polanski’s revision of the ending, over Towne’s violent objections. “Directed by Polanski in bravura style, it is undoubtedly one of the great films of the 70s.” – Time Out (London).
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