Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chinatown (1974)

Here's one of the best films noir/mysteries I ever seen, and it's not even from the 1940's! It was made in 1974. (I had to look up in a grammar book what the plural of film noir was.) Why did I like it more than the other films noir I've seen? It's not just because this movie's in color. Although it did help me focus on everything. The colors are lush and gorgeous in this movie. A lot of the plot focuses on water or the lack thereof, and the colors of the city contrast with the beige of the desert and farmland.

Why is it better than most mysteries I've seen? Normally in mystery films, I can figure out everything within a short time frame. This is one of the reasons why I don't watch crime shows on TV. But this film has so many twists and turns, it keeps leaving me guessing, then waiting for more. Secondly, unlike most films noir, the main character (the private investigator) does not narrate the story. Instead, we discover the clues at the same time he does. It provides a more realistic feel. Also the main character is played by a young Jack Nicholson and he is awesome.

One thing I need to point out.  The story is supposed to be set during a heat wave and a drought, and it clearly appears to be summer. When Gittes, the private investigator, arrives at the farm, there are fully grown oranges in the trees. My house is surrounded by orange groves. They ripen in the winter and are picked all the way until spring. They would not be there in the summer! I wish directors would pay attention to things like that. Another thing, when Gittes is leafing through Mrs. Mulwray's wallet, I noticed a modern day Social Security card. Then he reaches in a different area of the wallet and pulls out a Social Security card of the film's era. So did somebody accidentally leave their Social Security card in the wallet before filming? And I noticed that there were goldfish in the Mulwray's pond. The pond is an important plot element because it is saltwater (and water is very important in this film). Goldfish can't live in saltwater. This part confused me to no end because I thought the pond was freshwater the whole time.

Then, once I think the mystery can't get any more convoluted, they throw an Oldeuboi-style twist at us! That kind of thing makes me throw up. A twist like that means the movie can never end happily. There is a lot of drama in this film, it's hard to figure out, but not hard to follow. It keeps us interested and intrigued the entire time. I'll give this film a 9/10.

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