Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Chinatown (1974)

Widely recognized as one of the finest films to come out of the New Hollywood of the early 1970s, modeled on the '40s crime dramas and detective fiction. Jack Nicholson is a private eye in 1930s LA who is hired to investigate the murder of a powerful city official and becomes involved in over his head as he slowly pieces together the puzzle. Faye Dunaway gives one her finest performances as the woman in trouble, and John Huston turns in a chilling performance, embodying corruption in its most evil form.

Though there is much to praise about the film -- Roman Polanski's direction, Robert Towne's script and John A. Alonzo's cinematography chief among them -- there is an underlying problem I have with it: I am too often aware of the expert construction and execution of the individual elements, which I admire individually for their brilliance but which prevent the combined results from achieving a stylistic totality. It is nonetheless a masterful achievement in many ways, even if it perhaps adds up to less than the sum of its parts.

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