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"You've got a nasty reputation, Mr. Gittes. I like that."
Paramount / 131 Minutes / 1974 / Rated R / Street Date: April 3, 2012
Chinatown is an unqualified classic, and the kind of movie that probably would be compromised if someone were to make it today. The thing that I appreciate most about the 70's as a movie decade is that the studios weren't as fearful as they are today about making movies that end on a down note. Filmmakers were allowed to be profound instead of having contrived happy endings forced upon them. Chinatown undoubtedly benefits from this sensibility.
Chinatown is a complex film, emotionally and narratively. As one character admonishes Jack Nicholson's J.J. Gittes, "you may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't." This is a film you really have to watch and listen to, and be involved with. If you do, you are rewarded with one of the richest film noir mysteries in cinema history.
The acting is first rate, with Nicholson displaying a depth he is not often credited with. Faye Dunaway is perfect, and I personally regard her as a great and underrated actress, and she's never been better than she is here. And the great director John Huston is menacing and powerful in his brilliant acting turn here.
Chinatown is gorgeously directed, with stylish photography that is marvelously low-key with full compositions that use the entire width of the CinemaScope frame as well as offering fantastic depth of foreground and background. Director Roman Polanski was at the top of his game here, and the result is a modern classic.