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Chinatown (1974)

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A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.

Director:

Roman Polanski

Writer:

Robert Towne
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Popularity
1,656 ( 97)
Top Rated Movies #131 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 20 wins & 24 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Nicholson ... J.J. Gittes
Faye Dunaway ... Evelyn Mulwray
John Huston ... Noah Cross
Perry Lopez ... Escobar
John Hillerman ... Yelburton
Darrell Zwerling ... Hollis Mulwray
Diane Ladd ... Ida Sessions
Roy Jenson ... Mulvihill
Roman Polanski ... Man with Knife
Richard Bakalyan ... Loach (as Dick Bakalyan)
Joe Mantell ... Walsh
Bruce Glover ... Duffy
Nandu Hinds ... Sophie
James O'Rear James O'Rear ... Lawyer (as James O'Reare)
James Hong ... Evelyn's Butler
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Storyline

In 1937 Los Angeles, private investigator Jake 'J.J.' Gittes specializes in cheating-spouse cases. His current target is Hollis Mulwray, high-profile chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, whose wife suspects him of infidelity. In following Mulwray, Gittes witnesses some usual business dealings, such as a public meeting for construction of a new dam to create additional water supply for Los Angeles, as fresh water is vital to the growing community during the chronic drought; Mulwray opposes the dam. Eventually Gittes sees Mulwray meeting with an unknown young woman who isn't his wife. Once news of the supposed tryst between Mulwray and this woman hits the media, additional information comes to light that makes Gittes believe that Mulwray is being framed for something and that he himself is being set up. In his investigation of the issue behind Mulwray's framing and his own setup, Gittes is assisted by Mulwray's wife Evelyn, but he thinks she isn't being ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The most highly acclaimed film of 1974! See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Cantonese | Spanish

Release Date:

20 June 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Barrio Chino See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$29,200,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$30,000,000, 31 January 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's enigmatic title is a metaphor for moral corruption by unseen forces. Throughout the film, Jake Gittes refers to his time as a police officer in Chinatown, where "you can't always tell what's going on." In Hollywood, the movie's line, "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown", has become a mantra for those who have been burned or snubbed by the entertainment industry, the implication being that it's better to "let it go" than make an issue of it, because that's just how the industry works. See more »

Goofs

When Jake and Escobar are parked outside Curly's home, just before Jake gets out of the car, you can see through the rear window a woman walk by dressed in 1974-era clothes. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jake Gittes: All right, Curly. Enough's enough. You can't eat the Venetian blinds. I just had them installed on Wednesday.
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Crazy Credits

The film opens with the 1940's Paramount logo. See more »

Alternate Versions

TV versions omit the "screwing like a chinaman" joke told by Jake. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Skyfall (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Easy Living
Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Yes, this really is the best movie ever...
28 June 2004 | by attitudeadjustmentSee all my reviews

From the first 10 minutes of the first time I saw this movie in the theatre, I've truly loved it, more any other movie I've ever seen. Why? Well, that easy, it's just so... PERFECT!

Obviously there are many other great movies, and many other movies I personally also love, but Chinatown has a real spell over me. Other fans have commented here on the story and the spellbinding way that the forlorn and utterly mysterious story unfolds. I certainly agree.

Chinatown's cinematography and editing? Yes, I agree again! IMO, it's breathtaking, with pacing so tight that I sit straight up thru the whole movie and my nerves become completely raw every time I watch, listen and FEEL it again.

I don't think anybody has commented yet on the great choice of the many supporting actors. Each one so well cast and very believable in their roles! You've got the entire cast credits list (thank you IMDb) so I won't list them here but there are so many memorable performances here! It would be unfair to highlight one, two or three! Good cops, bad cops, ugly rich, up-and-coming, downtrodden poor, the very honest and very crooked with all shades in between! Each and every role a character study in and of itself and together they make a living "time capsule" of the forties that we can revisit for generations to come.

And then there's that sound track which hooked me on great trumpet players and the Est Coast Jazz sound of the era. I just love that music and way it interweaves with the ongoing theme - it's perfectly united with the faithful and compelling use of the film-noir style.

I saw this movie first in Chicago and heck, back then I knew nothing about LA, though I've since moved to and lived in the area for years. Once relocated, I quickly discovered the historically interesting side to the story and then appreciated the movie from yet another compelling angle. No question, the plot is fundamentally sound with many totally unexpected and yet quite plausible turns. But I later understood that it's within the realm of believability from factual standpoint, as well as intellectually/emotionally.

Geez, I'll never forget that first confrontational scene at the Albacore Club! The study in absolute raw and evil power as masterly portrayed by John Huston. In the very same scene Jack Nicholson skillfully paints the subtleties of his cautious, cynical, small-time hustler character. The air crackles! I must have played this scene in my mind a thousand times. When I visited Catalina Island for the first time in about 1985, not knowing its significance to the movie, I walked by the Albacore Club (The Tuna Club in real life) and froze transfixed. I recognized it instantly of course, and I must have stood there gawking for 20 minutes not saying a word. I could literally HEAR the Chinatown theme - the memories were that clear and fresh!

In closing, I guess then what does it about Chinatown for me (why I feel so strongly that it is the very best movie of all) is that every facet of the movie construction, from the opening scene to the ending credits, somehow fits together in a homogeneous, complete and absolutely flawless way.

I find it fascinating to analyze the characters and their makeup. To imagine the reasons they did what they did. But there is NOTHING I would change. Nothing.


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