Chinatown (1974)

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

Chinatown is an excellent , private detective mystery film neonoir (as labeled when it was released)  based on original, oscar-winning screenplay by Robert Towne .

The film is a skillful blend of mystery, romance, suspense, and hard boiled detective/film noir genre elements - especially embodied in The Maltese Falcon (1941) (by director John Huston who acts in this film) and The Big Sleep (1946)

Chinatown marked  Roman Polanski's return to Hollywood five years after the 1969 Manson murders that took the life of his actress wife Sharon Tate. Polanski opted to use a bleak ending rather than the more hopeful finale in the original screenplay.  This was Polanski's last film made on location in the US.

The film opens in the upscale office of a Los Angeles private detective with the name of  J. J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson). He's a former cop who now specializes in investigations of  divorce cases and extra-marital affairs.
One of his distraught clients  is in his office, groaning while looking at the incriminating evidence - black and white photographs of his wife   having adulterous sex with another half-clothed man in the woods. 
He is so upset that he throws the pictures into the air and grabs the venetian blinds. The self-assured, unperturbed Jake  cautions him to stop chewing on the newly-installed fixtures:
"All right, Curly, enough's enough. You can't eat the venetian blinds. I just had 'em installed on Wednesday."

When Los Angeles private eye J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by Evelyn Mulwray to investigate her husband's activities, he believes it's a routine infidelity case. Jake's investigation soon becomes anything but routine when he meets the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) and realizes he was hired by an imposter. Mr. Mulwray's sudden death sets Gittes on a tangled trail of corruption, deceit and sinister family secrets as Evelyn's father (John Huston) becomes a suspect in the case.

Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” is not only a great entertainment, but something more, something I would have thought almost impossible: It’s a 1940s private-eye movie that doesn't depend on nostalgia or camp for its effect, but works because of the enduring strength of the genre itself. In some respects, this movie actually could have been made in the 1940s. It accepts its conventions and categories at face value and doesn't make them the object of satire or filter them through a modern sensibility, as Robert Altman did with “The Long Goodbye.” Here’s a private-eye movie in which all the traditions, romantic as they may seem, are left intact.
And always at the center, there’s the Nicholson performance, given an eerie edge by the bandage he wears on his nose after it’s slit by a particularly slimy character played by Polanski himself.
Roger Ebert


Jake: I'm not in business to be loved, but I am in business. And believe me, Mrs. Mulwray, whoever set your husband up set me up. LA's a small town, people talk. I'm just trying to make a living. I don't want to become a local joke.

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