With Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston .
US, 1974, 35mm, color, 112 min.
Print source: Academy Film Archive
If the vast majority of the 1970s Hollywood films now considered classics are either jaundiced reworkings of the genres of the classical studio era or paranoid thrillers about a corrupt political system willing to commit violence to consolidate its power, those two trends find their most powerful point of convergence in Chinatown. While many of the neo-noirs from the time look back to the 1940s or 1950s, this film unfolds in a pre-war Los Angeles desperate for water and ruled by powerful dynasties. In the course of the routine surveillance of an unfaithful husband, a jaded private eye finds something much more sinister, uncovering deep and dark currents of political and personal corruption beneath the city’s gilded surfaces. Richard Sylbert’s stunning production design and Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting music add vibrant life to the brilliant evocation of the banality of evil in Robert Towne’s screenplay and Roman Polanski’s chilling direction.