Commentary on Movies and TV by Brian Holcomb

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

Chinatown is a perfect example of a Hollywood Factory project- a powerful producer commissions a screenplay written as a vehicle for a big star and then assigns a craftsman filmmaker to direct. On one level, this is collaborative work at its best, but as usual with Polanski, it's also a great work of personal art. The Polish auteur seems unable to shoot a film without dealing with its themes and ideas personally. So Chinatown, while boasting a brilliant screenplay by Robert Towne, is haunted by the director's trademark sense of paranoia and alienation.

I think that the two images above say almost everything about the film and expresses Polanski's very personal view on man's inability to control the chaotic universe around him. Not to mention that it's one of Jack Nicholson's greatest moments onscreen. The intensity of his desire to finally stand up and do the right thing, to try and make a difference in the first image followed by the shattered emptiness, the blank nothingness of the second image which follows the death of his lover Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) and the secret victory of her vile father, Noah Cross (John Huston).

In an matter of seconds, Nicholson as private eye J.J. Gittes is shown how small his place in the world really is and how ineffectual his actions are in controlling the course of events even on a minor scale.

"Forget Jake. It's Chinatown."

Chinatown has just been released in a special edition DVD. Click here to read my review of it for

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