This movie is wonderful. There is no other way to accurately give it its due. This film seems to establish the feeling of noir like no other of its predecessors nor any of its followers. It’s certainly a classic and will remain in film history for many years to come.
J. J. Gittes is a private investigator who has an uncanny similarity to Sam Spade from “The Maltese Falcon.” Although Jack Nicholson and Humphrey Bogart have no real similarities this character seems to be virtually the same.
He’s tough and rough but intelligent. He always gets the job done and he never takes “no” for an answer. He is efficient at his job.
Water: that’s what this film’s about. Water for the city of Los Angeles. It’s unclear exactly when this film is set, but it’s early 20th century, possibly the 30s.
When Gittes investigates the typical ‘man sleeping with other woman’ case, he finds himself in deeper than he intended to go.
Gittes is played by Jack Nicholson, who always seems at ease in front of the camera. While investigating, he meets Evelyn Mulwray, played by an eyebrow-less Faye Dunaway. It took a few years after this film for Dunaway to win an Oscar for “Network” but here she does a good job. But if you watch “Chinatown” it’s only for Nicholson.
As I said before, the noir in this movie is tangible, but it seems to have escaped the cheesiness associated with the genre. Even “The Maltese Falcon” which seems like the perfect noir film has its cheesy moments of raspy one-liners that amuse the viewer.
But here, the noir is thrilling. The music helps with this, the classy sax and then in more heightened scenes, the hard banging of the lower keys on a piano.
Who are the good guys and who are the bad ones? This question is always on the fore front of the viewers mind and I thought I had the whole thing figured out shortly into the film. But what’s great about the script is that is acknowledges these thoughts and throws enough doubt into the wind to get you to change your mind.
In a year that was owned by ‘The Godfather: Part II’ in awards shows, ‘Chinatown’ went virtually untouched. The only Oscar it managed to rake in was one for Original Screenplay which was well deserved.
A great film from a great decade of films.
Score: 4 out of 4 stars