Thursday, November 22, 2007

DVD REVIEW: Chinatown - Special Collector's Edition

If you look at a list of the greatest movies of all time, you’re sure to find titles like “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather,” “Schindler’s List” and “Casablanca.” Another film that tends to make appearances when listing the best of the best is “Chinatown.” But, oddly, it seems many people haven’t seen it and I’m not sure why.

Jake Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson, is a private investigator hired to investigate an extramarital affair. Of course, like most detective stories, it can’t be that simple (it would probably be pretty boring if it was). While working on the case, Gittes uncovers discrepancies involving L.A.’s water system and soon after finds himself in a world of violence and deception.

During his investigation, Gittes encounters many of the usual elements of a private eye story, including the love interest. That role is played brilliantly by Faye as Evelyn Cross Mulwray. He also must deal with the typical character that obviously has something to hide. John Huston handles that task in convincing fashion, giving life to Noah Cross, a wealthy business man with ties to the water supply.

It’s interesting to note that Cross always mispronounces Jake’s last name. This wasn’t something planned, but was born out of Huston’s normal mispronunciation of “Gittes.” The creators felt it added something to the character and didn’t attempt to correct it.

The film continues to follow many of the same twists and turns that other P.I. movies have taken, but it always seems to be a little better at it. Perhaps it’s the depth of the screenplay, for which Robert Towne won an Academy Award. Maybe it’s the non-stop display of talent in the performances by the cast. Whatever it is, it’s something special and “Chinatown” has it.

Once the movie ends, the extras included provide excellent insight to things that went on behind the scenes. For example, in one of the bonus features the story is told about how Nicholson and producer Robert Evans got into a very public argument on the set. Nothing special about that, except for the fact that Evans smashed the TV in Nicholson’s trailer so he couldn’t watch Lakers games and, adding a comic element to the incident, Jack was in his underwear.

Viewers also learn about how the musical score was changed after a preview of the film and how director Roman Polanski influenced the ending of the movie.

GRADE: 9/10
This movie is often lumped in with the best ever for good reason. All the elements – acting, writing, directing, etc. – are excellent and come together in a way that translates perfectly into to the film. Add in a set of extras that are more than just filler and it makes for a dvd that any movie fan should check out.

Rated: R
Chinatown: The Beginning and the End (19 1/2 min.)
Chinatown: Filming (25 1/2 min.)
Chinatown: The Legacy (9 min.)
Theatrical Trailer


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