Sunday, November 7, 2010

Essay on Chinatown

Essay on Chinatown movie

"Chinatown" was a confusing, yet intoxicating film. On a four star scale I would give this movie a rating of a good three-and-a-half, and even close to, but not quite four stars. This was a movie that really kept my attention the entire time, partly because it was so confusing. If I didn’t pay close attention I would have had no clue as to what was going on in the movie. Considering all of the movies that we have watched in class so far, “Chinatown” was by far the best. I looked forward to watching it each day in class, and it kept me on my toes throughout the entire movie.

“Chinatown” takes place in the blooming city of Los Angeles in the late 1930’s. Jack Nicholson plays the part of Jake Gittes, who is a former Chinatown police officer, and now a private investigator. He is hired by a woman who claims to be a lady named Evelyn Mulwray, who is the wife of Hollis Mulwray, a controversial man in the water business. We soon find out that this woman who hired Mr. Gittes is an imposter.


However, this case turns Jake on to something much bigger. He soon learns of a scandal within the water business of taking the scarce Los Angeles water and pouring it into the valley and then a murder of Hollis Mulwray. Hollis is found lifeless in a L.A. dam, which seems to be a little fishy to Jake. As his investigation becomes more intense and takes more twists and turns, Jake eventually gets to the bottom of things. He finds the real Evelyn Mulwray, who is an extremely mysterious woman. She wants you to believe that she is an innocent party throughout this mystery, yet things just keep coming back to her. We later learn that when she was just 15, Evelyn was raped and impregnated by her father. Her father, Noah Cross, is a former business partner of Hollis, and ends up being the root of all of the evil. He kills Hollis Mulwray because he knew too much about his plot to take the water in Los Angeles to the valley, which would give him total power over the city. As soon as Jake finds this out he tries to protect Evelyn and her daughter/sister from their evil father. The movie ends in a violent scene where the sick father seems to be caught in all of his wrongdoings, and is even shot in the chest by his daughter, Evelyn. However, this was not enough to stop him. After the shooting, Evelyn speeds off with her daughter/sister and is gunned down. She is shot by her own father, and the movie ends with the phrase, “It’s Chinatown,” referring to the bad guy getting away.

The plot and character twists were by far the most effective parts to this movie. This wasn’t one of those movies where you knew exactly what was going to happen next. Throughout the entire film I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen, and how the scene would play out, while at the same time trying to be a detective and attempt unsuccessfully to figure it out myself. In respect to character twists, it kind of goes hand-in-hand with the plot twists. However, the character of Evelyn was definitely the most interesting. There was something that seemed fishy about her, but you had no idea what it was. You couldn’t tell if she was lying to Jake and hiding something, or if she was good at heart. At one point it even comes her being the prime suspect in the murder of Hollis. However, something even stranger is revealed. Evelyn was raped at the tender age of 15, by her own father, and then became pregnant with her daughter, wait sister, no daughter, well, both. Anyway, Evelyn did not commit the murder instead she is the one we feel sorry for. Another aspect of the film, which at the same time I found effective and ineffective, was the violence and the make-up. There was a lot of violence throughout the entire movie, and a majority of which I found very effective. The scene that sticks out in my mind the most is one of the more famous scenes in the movie. It is when Gittes is snooping around one of the dams in L.A. and gets caught by a couple of men. In order to send him a message they slit his nose, which looked all too real (it made me cringe). However, there was a scene in the movie, another violence scene (surprise, surprise) which was not effective and did not look believable at all.

During the final scene of the movie Evelyn Mulwray shoots her father in the chest. The wound to her father looked horrendous. First of all it didn’t seem to phase him at all, which generally a gunshot would, and second of all, when the bullet hit him, it looked like a spatter of paint, like it was from a paintball gun or something. However, with all aspects taken into consideration, that was the only thing that stuck out in my mind as ineffective, which is a sign of a good movie.

“Chinatown,” being a movie that was made in the 70’s but takes place in the 30’s is a product of the time during which it was made. The 1970’s were a time where there was a lot of violence, which is obvious in this film. We see this with the death of the lady that impersonated Evelyn Mulwray, the death of Hollis Mulwray, Jake Gittes getting his nose slit with a knife, Evelyn and her father getting shot, and numerous fights. During one of these scenes we can also see how women were mistreated, which was a big dilemma in the 70’s. During the scene where Jake finds out the real story behind Evelyn Mulwray, he slaps her in the face numerous times, without her even snapping back or flinching. Women did not have any pull in the 70’s or in this film.

Jake’s secretary, Sophie, was not allowed to be around during any important conversations. When this occurred, Jake said to her, “Sophie, go to the little girls’ room would ya?” showing that she was too insignificant to be around anything important. Protest and the environment were also two big issues prevalent in the 1970’s. This core of this movie was based on the environment and water shortages, which led to protest. While in the courtroom discussing the water situation, a herd of sheep was brought in to protest the decision to be made. There were also aspects that seemed to carry over from behind the scenes and on to the big screen. Behind the scenes there was a clash of egos between Faye Dunaway and Roman Polanski. This can be seen also in the relationship between Jake Gittes and Evelyn Mulwray. With these characters in the film you can also see their egos clashing. Jake Gittes is a very confident man and will get what he wants. Evelyn is a rich woman who makes Jake work for what he wants, which creates a clash between the two. Also in the seventies, big business was looked down upon which can be seen here. The police represent the big business, which pretty much has control over Jake and the town.

However, we can see in the movie that the are very corrupt and justice isn’t served, which I think is mocking big businesses.

I really enjoyed this movie because it was different than anything else that I have seen. It wasn’t a typical happy ending where everyone is served justice, it ends with the bad guy actually getting off scott free, which we are not used to (being 20th century moviegoers). All and all “Chinatown” was an excellent movie, which was full of surprises and kept me interested the whole time, which hasn’t happened in a while. I guess you can say I like the sick and twisted aspects of the movie, which really says something about me.

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