ARegularJoe’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Chinatown" is a 1974 American neo-noir film, directed by Roman Polanski from a screenplay by Robert Towne, and starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. The story is about a private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and murder.
Now "Chinatown" was easily one of my must-see films on my watch list. It holds a reputation of being one of the greatest movies ever made, and if "The Godfather: Part II" hadn't won the Oscar for best picture back in 1975, they is a good chance that "Chinatown" would have taken the prize. And finally after seeing it, I am happy to say that "Chinatown" is spectacular.
Jack Nicholson is incredible as Jake Gittes, adding sarcastic quips, and commands the screen. Even when his life is threatened, Gittes is still a clam, and cool individual, and is always able to stay ahead of his foes. He isn't afraid to dig deeper when things don't add up, even when it cost his own well-being. He is also willing at times to bend the rules, and his cooperation with the law isn't what you would call stable. One of the most unique, and unpredictable antiheroes I have seen put into film, I couldn't look away from him at any point during the film. Remarkable, since Jack Nicholson is in every scene of "Chinatown".
Also wonderful is Faye Dunaway, playing as one of the greatest femme fatales in film. She plays the character of Evelyn Mulwray as both an untouchable angel, and a demonic temptress, as well of showing a cold reservation about the people around her. There is also a sense that behind Evelyn fragility, there is a dangerous mind that is waiting for the right time to come out. And then there is John Huston, who is terrific. He plays an odious, disgusting, unrepentant monster with such conviction, that he almost steals the show.
But amazing performances also need a script that can support them, and Robert Towne script might be perfect. Packed full with details, it still manages to be easy to understand and get invested in. Truly unpredictable, "Chinatown" kept me guessing to the point I just decided to stop, and let the movie work it's magic. It also serves as both a modernized, and a deconstruction of the noir genre. The way "Chinatown" portrays the genre makes it seem that this very story could actually happen. It also a tale of where nobility and heroism meet a dead end. Gittes does the best he can do in a world that doesn't seem to what it anymore, and only just makes things worst one step at a time. It may not be the happiest of stories, but it fits "Chinatown" best.
From a technical aspect, they are outstanding. The cinematography is enchanting, and Roman Polanski direction is mesmerizing to say the least. I was immersed fully into "Chinatown" form every shot, frame or angle. The atmosphere is perfect, and fits the movie's slow pace. The score is intoxicating and just screams noir. "Chinatown" perfectly captures the sprit of a noir, with all of the harsh reality added it. The sets are full of life, and just add to the immersion of it all.
I can't really name any issues I have with "Chinatown". Yeah the film is slow, but that's in service of the atmosphere, characters, narrative, and for a overall unforgettable final act that I don't want to spoil. "Chinatown" is a classic, and there is no doubt that it's going to hold it's status for decades to come.