• One of the greatest pure narrative films in the art-form’s history
  • A meditation on power, corruption—an intelligent labyrinth that updates (and improves upon) the best detective films of the studio system Hollywood era (superior to the detective films– Maltese Falcon)- it subverts and examines and redefines the genre though not on the level of Altman’s Long Goodbye from the previous year
  • The opening titles are gorgeous but feel a bit pastiche—but then you go right into the semi-graphic (clearly not 1930’s/40’s) still frame photos of the cheating wife with Burt Young
  • John Huston is not only perfect as Noah Cross- but a clear nod to Chandler, Hammett– as he’s the director of the Maltese Falcon of course
  • Strong retro-luminous Jerry Goldsmith score
  • The smirk from Jack is so good- overall he underplays the role- mostly, like F. Scott Fitzgerald says he’s a man defined by his actions, but there are moments for Jack that are undeniably Jack—we have him calling the hall of records kid a “weasel” under his breathe
  • Polanski and Towne (screenplay) so are patient—when looking through a desk Jack checks (and they shot) every drawer and what’s inside. It leads to nothing. Towne and Polanski are building a house here
  • The water- brilliant- so important for LA- mythic—a great “LA is a small town” line—perfect as maybe no actor more associated with LA either at this point than Jack- Mr. Laker court-side
  • The character is impeccably built from a formal standpoint—he never listens—someone tells him to wait and he goes ahead- again and again—
  • “Chinatown” is not only the perfect title- but a key character in the film- a largely unspoken fabled past, theme and undercurrent
  • The period detail and craft involved- such a high level- it’s all Polanski—he largely defers his stamp here to the screenplay and Jack and what they’re doing with the genre- but the paranoid is all him. There’s an eerie panic and dread in the air that’s in Rosemary’s Baby, The Ghost Writer and all his best work—it’s a rigged game
  • The nose- it not only creates a memorable hallmark— but it works for the narrative- a reminder of the seriousness as we’re chasing abstracts
  • The scene where Nicholson and Dunaway make love is superb—we have the Goldsmith horns form the score and then, another throwback, they cut to his cigarette after—then the overhead shot of them in bed together is spectacular
  • Freud and narrative strength here- Dunaway is naked and then when Jack mentions he met her father she immediately covers up
  • The narrative- which is perfect- comes back to Burt Young at the end with bookends—similar to the funeral owner in The Godfather– favor is returned
  • Jack’s “your wife crossed her legs a little too quick” line
  • Narrative economy- the butler “bad for glass”- line would come back as well with the tide-pool
  • The daughter/sister scene with Dunaway is absolutely awe-inspiring
  • Polanski is clearly in love with the period and architecture- it shows
  • Love Noah Cross’ (Huston)’s line about how he wants to own the future
  • The epic finale is justifiably iconic as well… it’s not only the “forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown” line but the JFK-like head-wound in Dunaway with the haunting horn from the score and then we drift into the sky above Chinatown almost like we’re Dunaway watching
  • A masterpiece