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Classic Review: Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown is one of those movies that I always saw on top lists and only heard good things about, but I never quite knew what it was about. The fact that Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway starred in it was the only piece of information that I really knew about before seeing it.

As it turns out, Chinatown is an old school private eye story set in 1930’s LA. Nicholson plays the investigator JJ Gittes, who mostly deals with suspicious wives suspecting their husbands infidelity. One day, a visit leaves him deep in the middle of a conspirency involving LA’s diminishing water supply, orange groves, cut up noses, and even murder.

Chinatown is pretty slow-paced, due to the fact that like the old school detective stories, director Roman Polanski has us  viewing the story through the protagonist’s eyes. Gittes gets knocked out; so do we. By doing this, the plot slowly unwraps,  and sometimes even drags on. While I was untested in the basic “who dunnit”, I was finding myself getting a tad bored. It was deliberately meant to have this “real-life” effect, but the only effect on me was being bored to tears. I did, however, really find myself loving the score. It had the just enough of the “noir” sound, but also enough different sounds to make it original. Quite a score.

While I think Chinatown was obviously a tremendous movie at its release date, I don’t think it had enough to make it into one of the alltime greats like it is now considered.

My Rating: C+

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