Chinatown, which came out in 1974, is one of my favorite movies.
Plot twist, it’s a film noir.
Bad surprise, it’s one of Roman Polanski’s movies. Polanski, a great director but Polanski, also a little man on the run, due to accusation of sexual abuse on a minor in 1977.
Can we separate the man from the artist? On principle, I don’t think so but to my eyes, Chinatown is a monument of cinematography, fully detached from Polanski himself. Given that it was filmed three years before his criminal acts, I feel like the movie is somehow miraculously unpolluted.
This film noir is very, very noir. It relates the adventures of an attractive private detective, Jake Gittes, in 1930’s Los Angeles, which is facing a severe water drought.
The film is based on the true “California water wars”, which took place in the 1920’s and whose political and financial stakes were incredibly high.
Jake Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson, investigates the doings of Noah Cross, played by John Huston, an immoral business man, embroiled in influence peddling, corruption, political manoeuvre and murders. During this process, he meets Cross’s daughter, the imperial and fragile Evelyn, played by Faye Dunaway, and falls in love with her.
The atmosphere feels heavy, nearly suffocating, and the final twist is simply terrible.
Darkness is everywhere and stifles everyone but especially the innocents and the victims. There is no salvation.
Nothing and no one are what they seem to be. Behind the masks are very different realities indeed.
Behind the appearances, there is mostly pain. And one comes to wonder if the French saying “être ou paraître”, being or seeming, really means anything. In this movie, you have to seem like a lot of things to hide the pains of your being in a harsh world.
Terrible, I tell you, terrible.
Lanvin jacket – Christian Lacroix dress – YSL derbies – Vintage bibi hat – At the Lancaster hotel – Paris