Chinatown (Classic Film Pick)
Like "Casablanca," "Chinatown" represents a perfect storm of enormous cinema talent coming together under an intoxicating noir setting. Robert Towne's screenplay is the stuff of legend--a perfectly sculpted script without a scrap of fat on it. The setting is '30s era Los Angeles where political wrangling over water rights for the area is cause for more than a little criminal activity on every level of social strata. In a career-topping performance, Jack Nicholson plays private detective J.J. "Jake" Gittes, hired by a squirrelly dame named Ida (Diane Ladd), posing as Evelyn Mulwray, to follow her water commissioner husband Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling) on suspicion of cheating. The web of deceit that Jake enters into costs him dearly on the way toward a downbeat ending that still shocks audiences. Conspiracy, incest, and murder triangulate in a real historical context of Los Angeles' scandalous past. For her part, as the real Evelyn Mulwray, Faye Dunaway plays a tragic figure of iconic proportions--a tainted heroine doomed to be violently misunderstood. "Chinatown" would be Roman Polianki's last American film, and as such carries a particular aura of the unavoidable hand of fate. The film was nominated in eleven Oscar categories in 1974, and won for Best Screenplay.
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