Films to See Before You Die: #28 Chinatown

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.

Chinatown: Blu-Ray Review

chinatown
Chinatown (1974)

Director: Roman Polanski

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

Movie – 5/5: 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.

Video – 4/5: Chinatown looks great on blu-ray and considering it is almost 40 years old it looks pretty magnificent. The colours are very rich and there is a strong amount of grain but it adds to the authenticity of the film. This is by far the best Chinatown has ever looked and in my opinion was how it was meant to be seen.

Audio – 4/5: The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack is very crisp and you can hear the voices of the characters much clearer than in the films DVD counterpart. Gunshots ring out with adequate authority, and water rushes with a fair sense of power. All in all a very strong audio presentation.

Overall Score and Recommendation – 4.5/5: Chinatown is one of the best film noire’s ever if not the best and it was able to do this almost 30 years after the genre was most popular. This is one of Jack Nicholson’s best performances and one of my favourites because he is much more restrained than he is in later films. Both Faye Dunaway and John Huston give powerhouse performances as father and daughter. This is Roman Polanski’s masterpiece as well as the last film he made in the U.S. before going into exile. The A/V presentation for the film is incredibly solid and there are more than enough extras for the average film buff. Overall this blu-ray release comes highly recommended.