The State Theatre Film Collective will be showing "Chinatown," a 1974 neo-noir film, at 4 and 7 p.m. today (Nov. 14). The film stars Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston, and features many elements of the film noir genre, particularly a multi-layered story that is part mystery and part psychological drama.
The story, set in Los Angeles in 1937, was inspired by the historical dramas over land and water rights that had raged in southern California during the 1910s and 1920s, in which William Mulholland acted on behalf of Los Angeles interests to secure water rights in the Owens Valley. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning in the category of Best Original Screenplay for Robert Towne. In 1991, "Chinatown" was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
"Chinatown" is widely regarded as being one of the finest in the film noir genre and the movie that put Jack Nicholson on the map as a leading man. It was also the first film that Roman Polanski directed after the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, by Charles Manson's clan in 1969. Polanski reportedly changed the ending of the original draft of the screenplay to reflect his viewof the world in the aftermath of his personal tragedy. A sequel, called "The Two Jakes," was released in 1990, starring Jack Nicholson, who also directed it, with a screenplay by Towne.
I confess that I haven't seen "Chinatown" in its entirety, but I've been told that it is a gutsy piece of filmmaking that wouldn't be attempted by a filmmaker today. Many films made in the early to mid-1970s, including "Chinatown" and the first two "Godfather" films, exposed the underbelly of American society. It was an exceptionally creative period for film. The legendary director John Huston, who played Noah Cross in "Chinatown," put his professional reputation on the line by playing an exceptionally vile character.
I may sound like a broken record on this topic, but we really are lucky that the State Theatre provides us the opportunity to see classic films like "Chinatown" on the big screen. Tony D'Augelli, a member of the State Theatre Film Collective, which is sponsoring the film, will introduce the film before the two screenings, and we may have a post-film discussion, also. I'm sure we'll have plenty to talk about.