Chinatown ★★★★½

"Are you alone?"
"Isn't everybody?"

It comes as no surprise that Chinatown is an especially downbeat example of film noir, given its somewhat bleak reputation within the genre. Nevertheless, it's definitely a dark journey that's worth taking at least once.

Robert Towne's script is a slow-burner that practically dares the audience to keep up, intermittently utilising flashes of nasty violence to ensure they're still engaged. The plot is incredibly labyrinthine on first viewing, but fortunately the lead characters compensate by being thoroughly compelling: Faye Dunaway is icily cool (until she suddenly isn't), while PI Jake Gittes represents Jack Nicholson at his sardonic, melancholic best.

I hesitate to praise Chinatown too effusively - like many Roman Polanski movies, the oppressive tone makes it difficult to love - but I can safely say it is my favourite from Polanski's filmography that I have seen thus far. Ultimately, I predict my opinion may benefit from a re-watch.

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