JJ 'Jake' Gittes is a private detective who seems to specialize in matrimonial cases. He is hired by Evelyn Mulwray when she suspects her husband Hollis, builder of the city's water supply system, of having an affair. Gittes does what he does best and photographs him with a young girl but in the ensuing scandal, it seems he was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray. When Mr. Mulwray is found dead, Jake is plunged into a complex web of deceit involving murder, incest and municipal corruption all related to the city's water supply. Written by
A film about LA and water set in the l930's during a drought with a dark incestuous subplot and some stunning performances by Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson, and superb cinematography that seemed to capture the essence of LA. Directed by Roman Polanski, who makes a terrific cameo appearance as a switchblade wielding heavy, and using the considerable acting talents of John Huston as a ruthless and perverted landowner. Read Cadillac Desert to know about LA's water grab but see Chinatown for its brilliant allegory of water and corruption, both public and private. The direction, the screenplay, the acting, the photography, and the soundtrack combine to make a convincing and atmospheric picture. The crushing ending is just so much more icing on the cake.
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