Chinatown ★★★★★

What I realized watching Chinatown for the second time is how specifically driven the narrative is by Gittes actions.  The absolutely wrenching and despicable ending is a direct result of his wanting to involve himself.  If he were a little less concerned with being the hero of his story, things could have turned out differently.  And this is where I actually realized the significance of the final line.  Because Gittes broke the cardinal rule of Chinatown and got himself invested.  And he should have known better.

This is a mind boggling film.  The writing is deliberate and perfect.  The dialogue is witty, poetic, believable, and completely fresh, and probably would not have worked in the mouth of an actor other than Nicholson.  This is his best performance by a long shot.  The subconscious vanity and confidence he imbues in Gittes, the romance in his soul that slowly overtakes him, the heartbreak when things so bad.  It's all so understated and elegant.

Then you look at the way this thing was shot.  The palette is otherworldly.  When has a film whose primary colour seems to be shades of brown ever looked so vibrant and beautiful?  And the shot composition is endlessly economical and clever.  The staging is just as crucially composed.

Favourite line/line delivery (I wish I could write dialogue like this) : 

But, Mrs. Mulwray, I goddamn near lost my nose. And I like it. I like breathing through it. And I still think you're hiding something.

It's like a piece of poetry when delivered so matter of factly by Nicholson, the progression and evolution from subject to subject is smooth and lyrical.

This film is a brilliant marriage between an ugly narrative and a beautiful construction.  It's a whole lot of people doing their best work and it has endured for a reason.

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