Chinatown ★★★½

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

In the late sixties to early seventies, as the world changed around it, Hollywood changed as well. If there was someone bound to know that change better than anyone, it would be the husband of Sharon Tate. (I'll use the space here to say that my rating of the film was in no way influenced by Roman Polanski as a person. Even if films very often have the tendency to be reflections of its maker's beliefs and experiences, I rate movies, not people.) When it comes to films from the seventies, my largest oversight was Chinatown. Naturally, it had some hype to live up to. Did it do so? No. Do I still think it's a quality movie? Yeah. I wholly know what it was going for. Here we have a noir where while it is often very well-shot and framed is otherwise stripped of the kind of cinematic playtime that most other features of the genre have. Here the bad guys are corrupt and vile, and the "good guys" aren't all that better either. There's blood, there's sex, people curse, and of course, here a happy ending is no longer guaranteed. If anything, a finale of tragedy is more inevitable. That's a good concept that I'm absolutely into, but I'll also admit that for about the first half of Chinatown, I was only half into it. I thought that it was alright. Gittes was a decent protagonist. I dug how sunny a lot of the moments were to contract with the sleaziness otherwise on display. The story simply started to me as only mildly interesting. However, the second half absolutely picked things up for me. Even if don't really buy for a second any connection that forms between Gittes and Evelyn, I found the film moved smoother, the mystery became more enticing, and everything was simply more engrossing. I had known for awhile now how Chinatown ends, but actually getting to see the ending itself for the first time with context truly hit hard. It's a killer ending in every sense of the word. Without giving away spoilers, after the moment happens, I honestly loved how the camerawork seemingly shifted from this otherwise clean movement to the kind of handheld work that makes what it's filming look real. And considering we're seeing you know what, it makes that moment much more chilling. I thought this was good. Not great, but well-made, and I totally understand why someone would love this. Bad endings feel like they're the norm sometimes. The movies had to catch up eventually.


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