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Chinatown

Updated: Aug 8, 2023


In 1974, the same year as "The Godfather Part II", Paramount Pictures and producer Robert Evans released another modern classic and one of my all time favorites, CHINATOWN.

Dripping with perfect sets, film noir detective work and one of Jerry Goldsmith's greatest music scores, it's complicated and rewarding.

Featured in virtually every scene, Jack Nicholson stars as PI Jake Gittes.

When he's hired by Evelyn Mullray to keep an eye on her husband, who she thinks is cheating on her, Jake is pulled into a whirlpool of power, conspiracy and many million of dollars in land and water rights.

When her husband turns up dead, Jake begins to discover layer after layer of mystery.

Robert Towne (Mission Impossible, Shampoo) creates such a perfect screenplay that it's often used in film school to teach film writing.

It's incredibly complex in structure and none of his characters are quite who they seem in their first introduction.

Nicholson is fantastic as Gettes, Dunaway is at her aloof best as Evelyn, John Huston (The African Queen) is menacing as a wealthy, sinister land man and John Hillerman (Magnum PI) drips sarcasm as a government official.

It's now well known that Huston had trouble pronouncing Gittes correctly while filming. Polanski decided to leave his mistakes in, which feel intended and disrespectful toward Jake, just one of the magic pieces around the film that come together into an incredible whole.


From top to bottom, the cast is flawless, as is the production design by Richard Sylbert (The Graduate, The Cotton Club).

Director Roman Polanski who also makes a memorable impression as the knife wielding thug who does a number on Jake's nose, almost didn't show up to shoot the film, as it was the first time back in the USA after the Manson murders of his wife Sharon Tate just 4 years before.


Evelyn and Jake are two people whose relationships typically dont last more than a night. When they start falling for each other, complications abound.

The perfect blend of 30's film noir, gumshoe detective work, Nicholson's wit and charm and incredible filmmaking, CHINATOWN is easily in my all time Top 50.

It's final line of dialogue "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown" is now part of film legend.

No film buff will every forget CHINATOWN, its gets an A+. It's easily in my Top 100 films of all time and solidly in my Top 10.

Followed nearly 20 years later in 1990 by the Nicholson-directed "The Two Jakes", a terrific and underappreciated sequel.

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