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Roman Polanski

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Chinatown



Title: Chinatown
Directed by:
Roman Polanski
Written by:
Robert Towne
Year: 1974

Films which score high in almost every category are indeed rare, but Roman Polanski’s Chinatown is definitely one of them. I tend to like complex films working on many different levels, and this is certainly true for this one. As if that weren’t enough, the film is also neatly directed and acted out.

The story starts in Los Angeles from what seems like a simple request by a woman (Diane Ladd) to investigate into her husband’s alleged affair with another woman, but rapidly spirals away in multiple directions. After hanging out the husband, who is the chief engineer at the city’s water department,  in the local press, private detective Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is faced by the real wife (Faye Dunaway), who threatens to sue. Gittens sets out to unravel what’s really going on and stumbles on a plot revolving around the current draught and the city’s water supply.

There are so many things that make Chinatown a good film I hardly know where to start. To begin with, the story is marvellous, so I can understand why this was the only Academy Award the film won, even though it was nominated for ten more. It’s got depth, complexity and it’s never obvious what’s going to happen.

In addition to this, the acting is next to flawless, with Jack Nicholson leading the way. I’m not sure how much credit I should give the actors here, but there is no doubt that they play their respective roles admirably, contributing to the overall effect. This is true for the directing as well, which highlights the story and manages to keep me as a watcher perfectly aligned with the main character, never revealing too much or too little. This is the first film I’ve seen by Polanski, but it won’t be the last.

So, why not five snails if this film is so good? I had difficulties pinpointing the exact reason, but I think it’s because a lack of that feeling that something is pure wonder. If I need to think about if this film merits five snails, it doesn’t, or, in other words, if it had that extra something, it would be obvious that it should have five snails. However, that is not the case and thus four and a half will have to suffice, but rather than being deterred by this rating, please note that this film is still great. Watch it.

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