Saturday, 16 February 2013

Classic Films: Chinatown

"You're a very nosy fellow, kitty cat. Huh? You know what happens to nosy fellows? Huh? No? Wanna guess? Huh? No? Okay. They lose their noses." - Thug
I'm in two minds about Chinatown. In its favour, the film was well made, had great performances, interesting characters, and kept up the tension and mystery. On the other hand, the red herring twist was reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan at his worst. The movie begins innocuously as a murder mystery, gradually building into a political conspiracy. But with 20 minutes to go, the film reveals that the real dirty truth was an incestuous relationship. After that, it was hard to concentrate on anything other than my disappointment with the film.

Yet over the last few days, I've had a chance to digest the film. And as I thought about it more, the more that grievance seemed insignificant. After all, the reveal is not the journey, and the journey was (otherwise) masterfully done. The whole film being told from a single perspective, including occasionally jumping into the first-person, made for captivating viewing. We saw the events unfold as they appeared to the private eye, where Jack Nicholson's performance as J.J. Gittes made every scene. It was captivating, it was mysterious, and it was very unexpected that LA in the middle of a drought could make for a good location for film noir.

Some of the choices in cinematography surprised me in a good way. One thing that really impressed me was how unchoreographed the fight scenes were. It was ugly to the point of being almost humorous, and very refreshing to see a leading role with someone who hasn't spent his nights secretly training for hand-to-hand combat.

Beyond that, I really don't have much to say. The film was intriguing enough that the incest twist angered me rather than made me pity the film (like I did with The Village), so that to me suggests the story really captivated me up until that point. And I have no complaints about the dark ending, especially after what difference removing the feel-good ending did to Blade Runner.

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