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  • Gareth Crook

Chinatown (1974)

I’ve never seen Chinatown. I’ve seen bits and know the story, it’s one of those films that’s impossible not to have some knowledge of. I’m a bit annoyed with myself to only be sitting down with it now though, long after we’ve discovered what a monumental piece of shit Polanski is. Oh well, I’ll put that to one side. Jake Gites (Jack Nicholson) is a hard nosed private detective in LA. He specialises in cheating spouses, finding them that is. One such being Hollis Mulwray a big wig in the city’s Water & Power department. That might sound a bit dull, but in a city like LA in the middle of a drought, water and the supply of is big business, is Power. It’s a lovely piece of slow burner mystery noir. Young Nicholson both dashing and menacing in his 1930s attire, as he stalks through a world of three-piece suits and white walled tyres. Jake’s patient in his pursuit, so we’ll have to be too. I’ve no problem with that, pretty much every scene is filled with charm, intrigue... and danger. Y’see Jake it seems is in a business that can get dangerous and when it appears he’s been set up, he finds that danger only increasing. He’s been hired under false pretences. He thought he was talking to Mrs Mulwray when he was hired. He was not. The real Mrs Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) is soon on board trying to find out who is after her husband and why, in a classic double bluff (or is it triple?). It gets darker and darker, as Jake digs deeper. Clearly there’s foul play and when Mulwray turns up dead, Jake realised this is much more than a husband fooling around, as things unravel and the plot thickens. There’s a racket that he wants to get to the bottom of, especially after he’s warned off by a nose cutting nutter with a knife (fittingly played by Polanski). This is Nicholson at his best. He’s perfect. Convincingly unafraid of what he’s getting in to. Smooth enough to get there. It gets pretty dark. More so than I thought and Jake finds himself in the thick of a layered deceptive cesspool of corruption and lies. Everyone’s bad, just to varying degrees. All except Jake, although far from squeaky clean he’s every bit the hero. For all the layers, twists and threads. There’s naturally a hope that things will tie together. Whether it does depends on your point of view, but it’s an iconic final scene for sure and lovely to finally put it in all context.



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