Chinatown

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Paramount Released 1974

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9.3
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Movie Summary

Director:
Roman Polanski
Released:
1974
Rating:
R

Chinatown, the classic 1974 private-eye thriller directed by Roman Polanski, is set in Los Angeles in the summer of 1937, a time of somewhat mysterious drought which is badly affecting small farmers outside the city. Jake Gittes, a hard-nosed detective specialising in divorce work, takes little notice of this until he is gradually pulled into a web of lies, deceit and murder whilst doing a routine matrimonial check-up on the city's Water and Power Commissioner, Mulwray - who dies suddenly. Gittes's growing suspicion that he was actually murdered is strengthened when he finds out that the woman who hired him was not Mulwray's wife as she claimed. The real Evelyn Mulwray seems ever more ambiguous to the investigator (who nonetheless finds himself falling for her) and then there's her multi-millionaire father, Noah Cross - a ruthless manipulator who may well have the police in his pocket and who seems set to gain another fortune soon, especially if the truth doesn't come out. One of the most ingenious detective thrillers ever made in Hollywood and a modern classic of American cinema.

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (1)

    • Jack Nicholson returned in the role of J.J. Gittes in the 1990 sequel to this film, The Two Jakes. He directed the film himself. It was a major box-office and critical failure.

  • QUOTES (4)

  • NOTES (2)

    • Despite claiming that Roman Polanski had ruined his original screenplay by altering the ending to a tragic one, Robert Towne was happy to accept a Hollywood Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and also a BAFTA award for the same thing in Britain. Many years later, the script was published - with the revised ending.

    • Robert Towne, who claimed that his original screenplay was based on true incidents, wanted the film to end differently, with the Evelyn Mulwray character successfully escaping to Mexico. The ending was changed late in shooting at Roman Polanski's insistence. For several years, Towne claimed that this change had damaged the film.

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Themes

Classics, Crime