CHINA TOWN (1974)

JJ ‘Jake’ Gittes is a private detective who seems to specialize in matrimonial cases. He is hired by Evelyn Mulwray when she suspects her husband Hollis, builder of the city’s water supply system, of having an affair. Gittes does what he does best and photographs him with a young girl but in the ensuing scandal, it seems he was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray. When Mr. Mulwray is found dead, Jake is plunged into a complex web of deceit involving murder, incest and municipal corruption all related to the city’s water supply. The scene where Roman Polanski slits Jack Nicholson’s nose was extremely complex to film, and the two men involved got so tired of explaining how it was done (by using a specially-constructed knife with a short hinge that would be safe as long as it was handled VERY carefully) that they began to claim Nicholson’s nose was actually cut. At one point, Roman Polanski and Jack Nicholson got into such a heated argument that Polanski smashed Nicholson’s portable TV with a mop. Nicholson used the TV to watch L.A. Lakers basketball games and kept stalling shooting. Because this film was the first of a planned trilogy, Jack Nicholson turned down all detective roles he was offered so that the only detective he played would be Jake Gittes. Roman Polanski eliminated Jake Gittes’ voiceover narration, which was written in the script, and filmed the movie so that the audience discovered the clues at the same time Gittes did. The last movie Roman Polanski filmed in the US. The movie’s line “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” was voted as the #74 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100). In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #21 Greatest Movie of All Time. Ranked #2 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Mystery” in June 2008. The first part of a planned trilogy written by Robert Towne about J.J. Gittes and L.A. The second part, The Two Jakes, was directed by Jack Nicholson in 1990. Writer Robert Towne was originally offered $125,000 to write a screenplay for The Great Gatsby, but Towne felt he couldn’t better the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and accepted $25,000 to write his own story, “Chinatown,” instead. Was voted the 4th greatest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly. The 15th biggest grossing film of 1974.

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