Recently, with my dad, I watched the film “Chinatown” (1974) directed by Roman Polanski. You’ll notice it is this week’s (June 1, 2020) movie of the week. I was utterly amazed by not only the storyline and shot composition but by how beautiful and disturbing the film was at the same time.
Now, if you’ve never seen Chinatown, it deals with some extremely emotionally disturbing aspects of life in Los Angeles in the 1930’s as well as aspects that can apply to today. The movie follows the general outline for the Film Noir genre and is a classic detective story. However, as my dad pointed out to me, it doesn’t follow those genres to the finest details. It manages to be even more intriguing in how it strays from the ideas and plot of most Film Noir movies.
The film itself follows private eye Jake Gittes as he tries to unravel the story behind a high profile murder in 1930’s Los Angeles. When the film starts, it is almost impossible to see exactly where they plan to take you as the subject matter in the beginning is practically the opposite of what you would expect. But hey I’ll let you find out for yourself.
The things I found the most amazing about Chinatown was the impeccable cinematography, storyline, and especially the nuances. They let the audience figure things out for themselves instead of conveying every last detail through the dialog and shots. I found it hard to follow in the beginning but as I watched more and more I began to pick up on important things such as recognizing the suspects car on a full street as they tried to convey that J.J. Gittes was following them. Generally, the movie does a lot of showing instead of telling.
As for the cinematography, it was absolutely beautiful. They used techniques such as reflections in mirrors, matching pans to how a character looks around a scene to give the audience the idea that it is more from the characters point of view, and the use of scenery in tandem with the rule of thirds was fantastic.
Overall, I loved this movie. The theme, storyline, and cinematography all came together to create a great film. It has its comedic moments, its serious moments, and it’s disturbing ones. The movie is an excellent example of what film should be and how it should work. It is definitely worth a watch and it really shows how good a movie can be when you go “Off The Script.”