May 9, 2014 · 7:00 PM
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Combine Roman Polanski and the New American Cinema with Film Noir, mix in the brilliance of Faye Dunaway, Jack Nicholson and John Huston, and you get "Chinatown." A depression-era Los Angeles gumshoe accidentally uncovers a plot by a shifty millionaire to steal vast swaths of farmland in the valleys surrounding LA and have the taxpayers of the city irrigate it.
"Gittes [Nicholson] becomes a man who just wants to get to the bottom of things. He’s tired of people’s lies. And where does he stand with Evelyn Mulwray, played by Dunaway as a cool, elegant woman who sometimes--especially when her father is mentioned -- seems fragile as china? First he’s deceived by the fake Evelyn Mulwray, and then by the real one. Then he thinks he loves her. Then he thinks he’s deceived again. Then he thinks she’s hiding her husband’s mistress. Then she says it’s her sister. Then she says it’s her daughter. He doesn’t like being jerked around.
Her father the millionaire is played by Huston with treacly charm and mean little eyes. There is a luncheon where he serves Gittes a fish with the head still on, the eyes regarding the man about to eat it. 'Just as long as you don’t serve the chicken that way,' Gittes says. In life and on the screen, Huston (who directed 'The Maltese Falcon') could turn on disarming charm by admitting to his failings: 'Of course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.'"
You get the idea.
Read the rest of Roger Ebert's review here: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-chinatown-1974
Watch the trailer here: