REVIEWED
5/11/03

STORY



LOOK

Chinatown
Director: Roman Polanski
Year: 1974
TRT: 2:11


What the hell is film noir, anyways? Just cuz it looks like it was done in the 30s? I guess I should study up more on my film history and quit bitching about it. But yeah, this is a film noir film, because, well, it takes place in that pre-WWII era. And done very well, at that. Polanski threads this crime drama nicely, with Jack Nicholson putting in a damn fine performance as the private investigator Jake Gittes, and Faye Dunaway accents him well in her pristine yet ultimately broken character.

Jake is a private eye running his own shop with a couple employees. Though his clientele tends more toward the marriagely-challenged side of the social scene, he still operates with professionalism and compassion. When he gets the job to investigate a possible extra-marital affair of a major in the local water commission, it's a big deal considering the drought conditions and how the board is trying to deal with it. But a lot of shit isn't ringing true, and Jake must not only find out the truth behind the affair, but save his own reputation as the situation grows steadily murkier.

This movie may be a bit "slow" for some, but I enjoy taking the time to build up to the finale if it's worth it. Dunaway's performance may be a bit too much in her nervousness, but considering her history the story alludes to, maybe not so much. Regardless, Polanski captures the mood and atmosphere quite well, and Nicholson's somewhat "playful" demeanor makes it that much more enjoyable to watch. It's really a prime example of the crime drama without the bogus plot-twists or cheap scare tactics. The culmination of the story does have some pretty perverse implications, but it plays out without insulting the viewer.

DVD Notes: A bit ashamed to say I had to watch this one on VHS, but at least it's from my own collection. I wouldn't mind seeing what the DVD has to offer in terms of extras. Just being in Widescreen is justification enough, though, with this film.