Leeds Movie Fans Meetup Group Message Board › Chinatown - Review includes Major plot spoilers

Chinatown - Review includes Major plot spoilers

user 8204205
Group Organizer
Leeds, GB
Post #: 781
This is *definitely* not an easy movie to review, so I'm gonna use the meetup as a practice, and then I'm gonna watch The Two Jakes and see if I can't get something down as a two-parter on my movie website. Not an easy proposition tbqh. Meanwhile, thanks ever so much to host Vivek tonight and our two fellow attendees, Graham and Valerie who were excellent company, and we all enjoyed a beer and a chat afterwards in The Royal Park, which made it a really good evening. I know a few others tried to get there, better luck next time.

Of course Chinatown is a movie that needs a different name, as it has nothing to do with Chinatown, except for a final scene which could take place anywhere, so its one anomaly about the film. The other one is why it is so beloved. It regularly scores highly in all time movie lists, along with The Shawshank Redemption, and scores 98% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Well it is a great film, let me make that clear from the start, and I really enjoyed it on the big screen. I can't remember the last time, if ever, I saw the entire movie in one sitting.

Chinatown chiefly benefits from two major factors. Firstly, Roman Polanski (who also cameos) directs it brilliantly, framing each scene perfectly, pacing the movie correctly, and getting maximum effect from his actors, when they are on screen. I wonder how much help John Huston was in the collaborative process, because Huston, a big pal of John Wayne, is well known as a generous man, and he does well in his role as water baron Noah Cross. The other reason is of course, Jack Nicholson. Whether Nicholson is at the height of his powers here is very debatable, when you consider his career, and all he has acheived. Hell, he is even superb in The Missouri Breaks, and is a true legend of cinema. He eats the screen up every time he is on it, even when sharing it with the astonishing Faye Dunaway. I doubt any actor has ever been able to time the delivery of his lines like Jack. Or keeps your eyes from Ms Dunaway for that matter. Amazing.

The movie does suffer from plot incoherence, which is typical of film noir. But the plot compares badly with the greatest noir examples, namely The Big Sleep and Build My Gallows High (aka Out Of The Past). Those two have super-complex plots, especially The Big Sleep, but Chinatown's plot is more to do with motivation of the central characters, and is a fairly routine investigation, when you consider all the detective movies out there. The premise is good, that water is being used as a bargaining tool at city hall, and as a corrupt factor in real estate speculation, and the riches that have been created are corrupting the souls of man, and woman, to include one of the deadliest sins, incest.

What I liked about the plot was the believable way the investigation proceeded. Gittes (JN) starts off in control, but as more and more is revealed, he becomes embroiled in its intricacy. To succeed, he must give the matter his total concentration, and that is true of us too.

The writer Robert Towne and Polanski famously clashed as to how the movie should end, and I didn;t think it was very satisfactory. Towne won the oscar and Polanski didn't, which tell you everything you need to know about Hollywood. I think the ending was weak, and so Towne was probably right, and that is why I have a soft spot for The Two Jakes, the sequel to Chinatown, which also stars Nicholson, and ties up a number of loose ends, and doesn't deserve to be forgotten about, just because its a sequel to such a popular movie.

Watching Chinatown tonight I kind of felt sorry for the movie makers that followed, that era was a tough act to follow: probably why the late 1970s and the 1980s were so whimsical. But we have had great movies since, and even in the film noir genre we have had better examples, LA Confidential and Miller's Crossing . Chinatown easily earns 10/10 having said that, the camera work and Jack Nicholson ensures it.
Vivek S.
user 31255062
Cheltenham, GB
Post #: 11
Very interesting write up Frankie. Meant to write about the meetup today but glad you bet me to it.
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