Chinatown (1974) – Roman Polanski


The final recommendation following my screening of The Big Sleep from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book is one of my favorite Jack Nicholson films, and undeniably one of the best noir films ever made.

Jack plays detective J.J. Gittes, and it’s the 40s in the city of Angels. Hired on a matrimonial case, leads Gittes down into an investigation involving murder, corruption and terrifying revelations.

Nicholson is perfect as the well-dressed private investigator, who ends up being more than a little roughed up by the end of the film, including the infamous scene featuring a nostril being sliced open, that even now, knowing how it was done is still unnerving.

When a high roller in the water and power industry, Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling) ends up dead, Gittes ends up working for the man’s widow, Evelyn (Faye Dunaway), trying to find Mulwray’s potential girlfriend, and dealing with the man’s partner, and father of his wife, Noah Cross (John Huston).

Even, wow, 40 years later, this is still an amazing film, smart, textured, and brilliantly made. The role was written with Nicholson in mind, and it would be hard to believe anyone else could ever take on the character.

The audience discovers the clues alongside Jake, putting them together, and working to resolve the case, following it to its horrific, but inescapable conclusion.

There is nothing in this film that I don’t like, the style, the cinematography, the pacing, the fantastic, haunting score by Jerry Goldsmith, and there for all of it, the amazing turn by Nicholson as Gittes.


The film was nominated for all of the big Oscars that year, but only ended up only taking Best Screenplay.

The film is filled with classic moments, and crackling dialogue that seems perfectly tailored to each and every one of the performers in the movie. It looks great, the costumes are fantastic, and everything works.

I love the fact that this is a film that provides you with all the clues, everything it there, you just need to pay attention and put it together, just as Gittes does.

I saw this one for the first time back in the early 90s, and it was one of those films that, once watched, you wondered how you had never seen it before, or for that matter added to your collection.

Since that time, I’ve easily seen this film a dozen times, and it holds up to repeated viewings, the story doesn’t break apart, there’s no untied threads left dangling… this is one of the best screenplays ever put to screen. And now that I’ve watched it again, I think it will find its way into rotation again.

I love this film.

Sure Polanski has his personal problems, but man, this film is still one of the best detective noir films EVER made.

You’ve seen this one right?





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