16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Takes classic film noir detective story to new heights,
This review is from: Chinatown (DVD)
This 1974 film takes the classic film noir detective movie to new heights. Yes, there is murder, scandal and lots of lies. But yet Jack Nicholson, cast as a private eye, is a sympathetic character. There's one scene in which the director, Roman Polanski, playing a bit part as a thug, rips open Nicholson's nose with a knife. This is the kind of wound that makes the audience grimace every time someone refers to it in the film. Faye Dunaway is cast as the femme fatale. She's beautiful, of course, and it's hard to take our eyes off of her. She's a woman of mystery, but little by little we glimpse her humanity. And by the time her secret is revealed, she's won everyone's heart.
Based on a real life scandal in Los Angeles in 1908, another underlying theme is about water and power in this desert city. The action takes place in the 1930s, and the details of that period of time are well portrayed, right down to Faye Dunaway's shaved and penciled eyebrows. The screenplay won an Academy Award and I can understand why. It was tightly written and revealed details that moved the plot forward at just the right pace. I sat there fascinated, not wanting to take my eyes off the screen, trying to figure out what would happen next and constantly surprised by the next twist and turn. John Huston is cast in the role of a wealthy landowner with a huge secret of his own. He's a fine actor and his presence on the screen added depth to the whole production.
The DVD has a special interview with the writer, Robert Towne, as well as Roman Polanski. This added to my enjoyment of the film and provided further insight about its production. Definitely recommended.