Tuesday, 31 August 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 350

13 - Chinatown - 5 stars
Every generation seems to get a new take on the Film Noir genre. The Noughties had Brick, The Man Who Wasn't There and Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, the Nineties had The Big Lebowski, and the Seventies had The Long Goodbye and Chinatown.
Whilst the others have tended to go for updating the genre with a modern twist, Chinatown is classic film noir with an old school story. In fact the only real change is that it is in colour.
JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson in probably his finest role) starts off with one case that soon turns into a much bigger, more dangerous case along with a good old femme fatale thrown in for good measure in the form of an unstable Faye Dunaway.
It is all presented from Gittes's perspective, so the audience find out the clues and unravel the mystery at the same time. And it is quite a complicated case with a "lot of ins, lot of outs, lot of what-have-yous" as The Dude would say in the parlance of our times. It features several twists and turns along the way but it would be poor form to spoil them but trust me, it's a doozy.
One of the most memorable moments in the film comes courtesy of its director, as Polanski has a cameo as the "kitty kat" that slices up Jack's nose, resulting in the big bandage he wears for the rest of the film. Perhaps a nod to the fact that private detectives back in the 40's Noirs would always get beaten up but never have a scratch on them.
This could be the point in the review where it would be easy to give an opinion on Polanski's recent (and past) troubles with the law but that would be opening a huge can of underage worms so I'll leave well alone and simply say that he has directed the very best film noir on the list.
"Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown", watch it and you won't be forgetting it anytime soon.

Days remaining - 15 Films remaining - 15

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