Movie Information

In Brief: The first true neo-noir is still the best. Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974) is that rare thing — an homage that actually transcends the genre it salutes. Everything about the film feels just right — from the casting (who but Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston can you imagine in the leads?) to the period look to the all-consuming atmosphere. It's the perfect blend of screenplay, director and cast that still weaves its spell nearly 40 years later — and there's nothing like experiencing it in all its wide-screen glory.
Genre: Neo-Noir Thriller
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez, John Hillerman
Rated: R

For whatever reason, the only time I’ve ever seen Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) on the big screen was at a university showing from a 16mm print. That’s hardly the ideal way to see a film this visually rich and complex, but in the 1970s it was about the only way to see a film once it went out of general distribution. As a result, I’m as jazzed as anyone about seeing Chinatown on a really big screen and from a remastered DCP. All films are better on a screen in a theater with an audience, but some films demand it.

Chinatown — with its gorgeously detailed recreation of 1930s Los Angeles and its pervasive atmosphere is one of them. That it’s one of the great films goes without question, but it’s a film that isn’t embalmed by its greatness. It’s vibrant, alive, witty and incredibly entertaining. It’s also a reminder of what a truly great actor Jack Nicholson was at the height of his career — and what a dynamic screen duo he and Faye Dunaway made and still make. The film ranks as the 19th greatest movie of all time on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 best movies. Robert Towne’s screenplay was voted number three on the Writers Guild of America’s top 101 screenplays. Seeing the film again will remind you why.

For more on the film go here.

The Asheville Film Society’s Big Screen Budget Series will show Chinatown Wed., Aug. 21, at 7:30 p.m. in one of the downstairs theaters at The Carolina Asheville. Admission is $5 for AFS members and $7 for the general public.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

16 thoughts on “Chinatown

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency!

  2. Jeremy Dylan

    Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope….

  3. Ken Hanke

    Not unless you provide…..THE COMFY CHAIR!

    Done! Be there by 7 p.m.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.