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Chinatown and the Last Detail: Two Screenplays Paperback – December 8, 1997

9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st edition (December 8, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802134017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802134011
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Robert Towne is easily one of the best screenwriters whose words have ever graced the silver screen. In these two screenplays, Towne displays his mesmerizing talent by fusing all of the integral elements that make a film not only brilliant but fun as well. With his mixture of memorable and unique characters, cutting-edge dialogue and nuanced styles, Towne is able to craft films that play out in the mind as well as they do on the screen. In the mystery thriller "Chinatown" that starred Jack Nicholson, Towne takes us on a nostalgia trip to a thinly disguised water war in 1930s-era Los Angeles. The characters leap off the page as well as they did off the screen in the film. Towne's words build momentum, snowballing through the heavily stylized locales and situations to a climactic sequence. Even without the support of Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston the screenplay is extremely readable and enjoyable. "The Last Detail", also starring Nicholson in the film, tells the story of two Navy lifers who are assigned to transport a buffoonish young recruit cross-country where he will spend the next eight years imprisoned - and the wild "Odyssey"-inspired events that unfold when the two lifers attempt to show the young prisoner a good time before he goes under. Not as intricate as "Chinatown" but the dialogue here is way before it's time and would fit right in with even the more unconventional of 90s movies. The heartfelt emotion needs no musical score or fancy camera movements to show up, and Towne invokes all the feelings by simply putting words into a character's mouth. These films were released in the mid-70s and he won Oscars for both of them, and they have definately stood the test of time.Read more ›
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joseph McBride on March 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Robert Towne's CHINATOWN is the finest example of screenwriting in the last thirty years. Towne could have written this story as a novel about how modern Los Angeles was formed, but chose to do so in the medium of film. The result has the richness and depth of a great novel. Students everywhere study CHINATOWN to learn the craft of screenwriting and for inspiration. Towne's brilliantly funny, disturbing script of THE LAST DETAIL, based on the novel by Darryl Ponicsan, is a worthy companion piece.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
Among American screenwriters, Towne is one of the greats, and if you're interested in the craft of writing for the movies (as I am), you have to read his stuff. He worked on BONNIE AND CLYDE and THE GODFATHER, got nominated for an Academy Award for THE LAST DETAIL and finally won for CHINATOWN -- one of the truly great screenplays of the century. Reading a screenplay is different from watching the film, though if you know the film -- and who hasn't seen CHINATOWN? -- it can be difficult to keep the images out of your head while you're reading. But the point is to follow the way the narrative structure moves the story. THE LAST DETAIL doesn't really have a big plot, being just the story of a lost weekend, of two career sailors escorting a third guy, much younger, from Norfolk to the brig at Portsmouth. Meadows is a nice kid, almost an innocent, a kleptomaniac who received a very stiff sentence for a very minor attempted crime. Billy Buddusky (a name remarkably similar to "Billy Budd") and Mulhill (known as "Mule") try to take him through a few life experiences on the way, including getting drunk, getting laid, and almost getting a tattoo. And the story ends quietly when they deliver him to jail and go their separate ways. A very nicely rendered slice-of-life story. CHINATOWN, of course, is the story of Jake Giddis, well-dressed private eye in Los Angeles in the 1930s, who takes on what he thinks is a routine matrimonial case but gets caught up in water politics and other people's strange lives. The writing here isn't quite Sam Spade; in fact, there's a very modern `70s tone to it. Towne was writing about the eye-opening `60s and `70s, for all that the story is set a generation earlier. But the pace is perfect, the characters are magnetic (even though Towne doesn't tell you everything that he might about them), and the very abrupt climax is shocking. Great writing, both of them.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Robert Towne is easily one of the best screenwriters whose words have ever graced the silver screen. In these two screenplays, Towne displays his mesmerizing talent by fusing all of the integral elements that make a film not only brilliant but fun as well. With his mixture of memorable and unique characters, cutting-edge dialogue and nuanced styles, Towne is able to craft films that play out in the mind as well as they do on the screen. In the mystery thriller "Chinatown" that starred Jack Nicholson, Towne takes us on a nostalgia trip to a thinly disguised water war in 1930s-era Los Angeles. The characters leap off the page as well as they did off the screen in the film. Towne's words build momentum, snowballing through the heavily stylized locales and situations to a climactic sequence. Even without the support of Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston the screenplay is extremely readable and enjoyable. "The Last Detail", also starring Nicholson in the film, tells the story of two Navy lifers who are assigned to transport a buffoonish young recruit cross-country where he will spend the next eight years imprisoned - and the wild "Odyssey"-inspired events that unfold when the two lifers attempt to show the young prisoner a good time before he goes under. Not as intricate as "Chinatown" but the dialogue here is way before it's time and would fit right in with even the more unconventional of 90s movies. The heartfelt emotion needs no musical score or fancy camera movements to show up, and Towne invokes all the feelings by simply putting words into a character's mouth. These films were released in the mid-70s and he won Oscars for both of them, and they have definately stood the test of time.Read more ›
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