Chinatown is a neo-noir film, meaning its a modern genre of the classic film noirs. It was made in the midst of what is referred to as the American New Wave (New Hollywood). This period began in the mid to late 1960’s when Hollywood and the major studios began reinventing itself with the infiltration of new actors, writers, and directors. Chinatown is a detective thriller portraying 1930’s Los Angeles. J.J Gittes (Jack Nicholson), the private eye with a hidden past -which he covers with sarcasm and humor- and determination to make a name for himself is found caught in a water murder web.
Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) is the wealthy widow of the city’s Chief water engineer, Hollis Mulwray. Dunaway is your typical femme fatale. She’s gorgeous, persuasive, mysterious, tough and sweet all in one. Gittes falls victim to her beauty and vulnerability but manages to separate business with pleasure. As Gittes is ready to send this seductress in the slammer, she reveals two truths which lead all evidence to her father, Noah Cross. Running her whole life from a man who raped her, her last attempt to flee results in a shootout and her untimely death.
Chinatown is a mix of everything from suspense and action to humor and lust. Death (and the corpses’) always seem to pop out at you. There is varied use of low-key lighting (shadows) which is the basic ingredient in a film noir. The cinematography was also very rich, crisp and golden but not lively enough to take away from its noir qualities.
Cordaiy, Hunter. “through a lens, darkly: teaching CHINATOWN.” Screen Education 54 (2009): 119-124. Film & Television Literature Index. EBSCO. Web. 24 Feb. 2011.