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Films to See Before You Die: #28 Chinatown


Chinatown (1974)

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast : Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez

Synopsis: Jake “J.J.” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a private detective that specializes in marriage cases, he is hired one day by a woman calling herself Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray to investigate her husband. Gittes realizes that her husband is in fact Hollis Mulwray the chief engineer of the Los Angeles water supply who also helped build the city water system. Jake finds Mulwray spending the day with a young girl where he proceeds to take many photos that are eventually picked up by the L.A. Times unbeknownst to Jake. A few days later Gittes is visited by another woman who is in fact the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) and she is planning to sue Gittes for defamation. Very upset with the turn of events Jake starts an investigation of his own into who set him up and a few days later Hollis Mulwray is found dead. His investigation puts him at odds with his old partner Escobar (Perry Lopez) from when he was a cop and leads him to the immensely rich and influential Noah Cross ( John Huston), who is also Evelyn’s father. While investigating Gittes stumbles upon massive corruption all relating to Hollis Mulwray and the city water supply.

Trivia: The scene where Roman Polanski slits Jack Nicholson’s nose was extremely complex to film, and the two men involved got so tired of explaining how it was done (by using a specially-constructed knife with a short hinge that would be safe as long as it was handled VERY carefully) that they began to claim Nicholson’s nose was actually cut. Because this film was the first of a planned trilogy, Jack Nicholson turned down all detective roles he was offered so that the only detective he played would be Jake Gittes.

Why I think you should see this: I just love Jack Nicholson films especially his run in the 1970’s that included The Last Detail and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest among others. Roman Polanski does an incredible job in his direction making a film that defines a genre years after that genre’s popularity had faded. It is really fun to see legendary director John Huston playing the sly Noah Cross and Faye Dunaway is remarkable as Evelyn. The movie really belongs to Jack though who shines in what might be his best role. Check this one out its a masterpiece.

About Trevor

Hi my name is Trevor and this is my blog! Films are a passion of mine. I am a total film geek. I own over 700 films and the collection is ever growing. I studied Film Studies and Scriptwriting in College. What I have learned about films is mostly self taught.

5 responses to “Films to See Before You Die: #28 Chinatown

  1. noa834 ⋅

    I have to agree it is a masterpiece. Good pick!

  2. Nice review….whacked on the download list!

  3. Really looking forward to your top 25 picks here…

  4. Good that you posted this. No matter what the subject, Polanski always sets a scene.

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