Roman Polanski is known for a lot of things, director, husband of Marianne Faithful at the time of her death at the hands of Charles Mansons family or the only film maker who has to have at least thirty seconds of naked women in every movie he makes. Whatever you know him for and whether you like his style or not you have to, in some way, agree with his worthiness of being one of the the first to appear in our Forgotten Movies Ezine feature.
Though I am not a fan myself I have to give way and accept his 1974 movie Chinatown to be a forgotten classic, it may not reach the heights in our esteem as either Labyrinth or Pump Up The Volume but with its complicated story, partly based on true events of the California Water Wars which began in 1898, Polanski and Hudson pull off a somewhat entertaining crime drama. However, not all classics are good movies which is why you may note a sense of dislike in the oncoming review; because really, why does the first review in a new Magazine or Ezine have to be a good one? Thats what everybody else does.
The movie is very well paced and delegates its two and a half hours well between action storyline and the necessary middle bits that all movies have. When I first read a review I thought that this may not be the case and that I was in for another lengthy what-can-I-day-dream-about-in- the-middle Roman Polanski movie, but, was relieved to find that even when there was no action to be had there was still something going on (not something Polanski is known to me for.) There is little by way of soundtrack and score which may lead some to see why it is the length it is, but like the un-made movie where the entire plot comes out in the sex scene, the not happening action is the action.
This may be because it is such an intricate and complicated story or it may just be because Chinatown is an attempt at a psychological crime thriller while at the same time not being psychological.
What music there is usually appears when there is no dialog and is more of an explanation or justification for what is happening on our screens or in the aspect of the movie at hand, it works against the action whereas, in other movies the score works with what is happening. And, unless to denote culture and/or personality traits is relatively un-appealing, though, at the same time works for the scene at hand and perfectly portrays what Polanski was trying to do and say. It can be said that all music in movies work this way, but I disagree, to me it is simply a Polanski trait, which I fully understand and just fails to by engaging. Also, given whom the director is the slightly disjointed music was more than likely a purposeful decision chosen to entice the audience, another Polanski trait that is what so many believe are responsible for his acclaim and what I see to be the reason for the opposite.
Faye Dunaway is as usual Faye Dunaway, not meant as a slur on her ability as an actress but merely an observation that whichever character she portrays she brings an element of herself an aspect that has come to dissipate over her career. Nicholson, again not an actor that springs to mind but is still nonetheless a good performer who has created many an enjoyable movie – for with Nicholson, .you can tell when he likes the roll hes been given in comparison to the ones he doesnt.
I recommend seeing this movie as one of those to able to say you have seen and not missed out on, one of the aspects that makes it worth seeing is that it comes full circle, involving characters at the end that it did in the start and it remains constant throughout un-like a lot of movies that fit into the same class.
If you have seen the movie before and, no doubt, didnt remember it then it is worth watching again just to be reminded of what you felt, thought and experienced the first time – something I recommend for all movies you havent seen in a while. If you have not and/or choose not to see it then it is no considerable loss, however, if you do decide to see it either again or for the first time it is a movie worth having seen even if it is just once. Chinatown is one of those movies to watch from a recording so you can stop and start it therefore watching it in your time and probably appreciating it more as opposed to all at once. Anyway you chose to watch it you will either feel gratified or cheated by the twist at the end by means of understanding or liking of the two main characters which the story eventually revolves around.