CLASSIC MOVIE CHINATOWN SHOCKING FOR ITS TIME
After reading about Chinatown in my Screenwriting book, which used it as an example of excellent script writing, I decided to buy it. I am glad I did. Because of its basic screenplay structure, its easy to analyse, if you are into film making or scriptwriting, but it is enjoyable to watch the twists at the end(although it was not a surprise for me-having read the screenplay anaylsis). Fans of Jack Nicholson will love his cool and slick performance. Faye Dunaway impresses as always with her serene beauty and hidden anguished portrayal of a desperate women with a secret past that is too horrifying for her to talk about. Without giving the films twist away, it would be difficult to give a thorough review of the plot, but I wil try:
Jack Nicholson plays a private investigator who specialises in spying on cheating spouses. He was a police detective before this working in Chinatown, hence the films title. A woman comes and offers him the job of spying on her husband, which he does, but then an expose on how Jacks uncovers her husbands adultery appears in the newspaper. Then another woman appears who says SHE is really the wife of the man Jacks character spied on. The man then ends up dead. All the time, we are made aware of plans to build a dam to control water supply for the area, when there is a water shortage. Jack accidentally finds out there is a conspiracy to profit off this water supply by a certain powerful and wealthy individual. At the same time, Faye Dunaways character is acting very strange and Jack, although now in love with her, suspects her of killing her husband. He then finds out the truth in the end which culminates in some great cinematic moments.
Although films of this era never give you the answers, unlike todays movies, this film, does tie up the loose ends at the final act, but viewers who are used to having all the answers given to them, will struggle watching the movie (lazy minded individuals?). On the other hand, if you want to watch a no-brainer, like we all do sometimes, then this is not the movie to watch, as we are on the journey along with Jacks character, to find out who set him up. It is a subtle and reserved story.
There is hardly any "action"(violence, car chases or explosions), but this is more a thriller-with drama, than action. If you like a subdued story that goes along at a slower relaxed pace, than this is the movie to watch, when you can stay in, while its raining outside or as a night time matinee when you can get absorbed into it. But it is not an action movie, nor does it give anything away until the end.
The beauty of films like this, Three Days of the Condor, Taxi Driver, Butch Cassidy and the sundance Kid, and others is they are understated. There are character driven scenes that keep you entertained because of the relaxed yet suspenseful atmosphere, but the drama comes from the inner conflicts of the characters, rather than any external factors, like action movies. A thrilling rollercoaster ride it isn't, but more of a calm boat ride down a river. I liked it mainly because of Jack Nicholsons performance and the unexpected downer ending which is definitely not a fairy tale ending(Roman Polanski insisited on it). The DVD comes with the movie trailer, and the usual chapters menu. I paid under £6.00 for it. I am glad I bought it. I will dig it out and watch it probably once a year, after anaylsing the hell out of the screenplay.Thanx4reading-hope it helps