Friday, June 18, 2021 (In 9 days, June’s fullest [Strawberry] moon will rise.)
OMG! Netflix has “Chinatown”, one of the most accomplished American movies. The instant that choice popped up, I was there, immediately becoming as riveted as in previous viewings. This time, I saw some of its elements a little differently. After many years of not having watched “Chinatown”, and now with more life experience, I grasped more fully the movie’s impact.
And impact is “Chinatown” on every human level. It’s a visual essay about morality with winners and losers. It speaks to periodic searches for sheer courage to continue living. It shows extremes of corruption related to great wealth and to issues of human morality. It’s a revelation about psychological weariness.
Why sit and watch for a couple of hours? How about an incredible screenplay by one of Hollywood’s best writers, Robert Towne? How about a director, the eccentric and brilliant Roman Polansky? How about key actors, Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and the accomplished director turned actor for this movie, John Houston?
The film’s mood is visual, shadowy and downbeat in settings and auditory in its musical score. A viewer’s perceptions of corruption and shadow become offset by well-costumed, clean-looking actors, and scenes sometimes drowning in SoCa’s natural light.
Its themes aren’t new. Modern movies create similar-issue stories, but often soften them by making them seem almost cartoon-like. We watch knowing it’s less about us, more “about them”. The contrast is “Chinatown” which doesn’t fool around with a story of human potential that’s clearly about ourselves. Watching the action unfolding in “Chinatown” isn’t like, say, reading similar actions in a newspaper. This movie absolutely forces us to rethink our raison d’etre.
It’s a story equally about human evil and morality. It’s ending is foreshadowed by a revelation of the lead character’s past attempt, and failure, to help a person he loved.
From start to end, “Chinatown” is a brilliant, compelling work of art.
Dear Friends: A great viewing opportunity makes worthwhile having streaming services. Diana