28 June 2009

Chinatown by Polanski, 1974

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 10:46 am

This to me is as iconic — as portalic — an image sequence as the one in Vertigo where Jimmy Stewart sees Kim Novak fully revealed as the dead version of herself. Jimmy realizes the uncanny haunting he’s entered; Jack doesn’t get it yet.

chinatown anglo

chinatown chinese

[Originally I posted only the second shot; I added the first one in light of discussion.]



  1. Hi John,

    Er, I don’t really get your comment. Can you say more? The Novak scene is the one in green light, right? This is the love (aftermath) scene just before Nicholson follows her after smashing her car light, I think.

    I saw Chinatown on the big screen recently. I had seen it on television when I was quite young but it kind of went over my head.

    This time, I was amazed. A truly incredible film, It haunted me for days after.

    The audience was so wrapped up in it, one woman clapped hysterically when Faye Dunaway shot John Huston in the arm – slightly spoiling the ending, but amusing all the same.


    Comment by NB — 29 June 2009 @ 2:48 am

  2. Yes, I love this movie too, nb. And yes, that’s the scene from Vertigo I mean, where suddenly, impossibly, the Kim Novak character is revealed “in a different light” for who she really is.

    If you didn’t already know that this is the very white Evelyn Mulwray, wouldn’t you think, looking at this screenshot, that maybe the woman in bed with Jake Gittes is Chinese? Mrs. Mulwray has just asked Jake why he doesn’t like to talk about his past. It happens to all of us there, Jake replies. Where? Chinatown. Why? Because you never know what’s going on. And then, as Jake looks smugly but innocently at Mrs. Mulwray, she casts her gaze upward and to the side, and we get this image. Suddenly it’s revealed to us, the viewers, what until now has been hidden from view and what remains hidden from Jake: that Evelyn Mulwray IS Chinatown.

    Just before they go to bed, Jake is scrutinizing Mrs. Mulwray’s face. What’s that in your eye, he asks her. It’s a black spot, a flaw in the iris — a sort of birthmark, she tells him. It’s the darkness of her father, which is also the darkness of Chinatown. And then Jake kisses her, and then we shift to the post-coital bed scene. When at the end of the movie Evelyn Mulwray is lying dead in the car we see that she’s been shot through that flawed eye, and now it’s completely darkened.


    Comment by john doyle — 29 June 2009 @ 4:30 am

  3. “Suddenly it’s revealed to us, the viewers, what until now has been hidden from view and what remains hidden from Jake: that Evelyn Mulwray IS Chinatown.”

    Erm, I embarrassed to say that it wasn’t revealed to me until just now. But a great analysis, John. I’m at work and when I had a look at Ktismatics I had a very small window up. It only showed Dunaway and to begin with I didn’t recognise her. She looked Chinese.

    When they are having a drink, before the bathroom scene, she asks him what he did in Chinatown and he replies wearily and a little sardonically, “As little as possible.”

    At the end, he says almost imperceptibly, “As little as possible…” If only he had.

    Gittes is like Oedipus: thinks he knows it all when he doesn’t know shit.


    Comment by NB — 29 June 2009 @ 6:24 am

  4. I didn’t intend to embarrass you, nr. I might be seeing something that isn’t there, but I doubt it — as you say, your first impression from the screengrab was that the girl is Chinese. Jake is looking right at her too, and he doesn’t get it either. I remember seeing this scene in the theater and getting goosebumps as this cinematic transformation of Faye Dunaway’s face was revealed right before my eyes. Maybe I was in the right mood to see it.

    I agree, Gittes is like Oedipus. His pose in the bed is rather Greek-statuesque: naked torso, arm posed artistically. Evelyn’s private flaw is her eye, which Jake could see with his own “private eye.” Jake’s tragic and very publicly-revealed flaw is his nose. He’s too nosy for his own good but he can’t pick up the scent, the stench of danger and corruption, of death — can’t smell what’s right in front of his nose. Surely this is intentional: after all, the director himself inscribes this flaw very directly for our benefit.


    Comment by john doyle — 29 June 2009 @ 6:47 am

  5. I haven’t taken the DVD back to the library yet, so I’ve also put up the shot just before the one in question.

    In locating this scene I backed up just a bit prior, to where Gittes is kissing Mrs. Mulwray. “Watch out for your nose,” my wife had said as we were watching — exactly.


    Comment by john doyle — 29 June 2009 @ 7:22 am

  6. Clysmatics, the De Palma book has arrived and I already like the book’s conclusion, which is that De Palma deals in the kind of consequences of splitting that DO NOT lead to loss, negativity, blindness, but instead open a kind of an internal ”third eye” that can see into the aposteriori dimension of futurity. THIS is what drew me almost hypnotically to the text, rather than my love of De Palma as an artist. Though all the drama pain and horror of the splitting is shown, this is NOT where De Palma is headed as a philosopher: he goes through the portal and back.

    We could then discuss chapter by chapter as we once did on the Lacan material at Eloise’s Post-Structural Reading Club which then hopefully the old crew will also attend, bringing back some liveliness and trolling power to the Internet that’s been lacking ever since the Egyptian temptress MORTIFIED everyone into serious discussions of Michael Jackson’s queer becoming.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 30 June 2009 @ 12:50 pm

    • I’ll get back to the book, maybe as soon as tonight. If something in the first two chapters strikes me in particular I’ll post about it and we can chat over tea and cookies.


      Comment by john doyle — 30 June 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  7. Clearly Jake Giddes identifies Chinatown with the usual orientalist stereotypes of irrationality, corruption, and especially inscrutable otherness — that’s what the film’s title is all about. But it turns out that behind all the mystification stands the Big White Daddy. Arguably that’s who also stands behind Western orientalism: the Big Other of money and power who deflects attention and hostility from Himself onto the cultural Other. Jake Gittes finally figures it out, but there’s nothing he can do about the perpetuation of the corruption.


    Comment by john doyle — 30 June 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  8. ”isn’t why so many starving artists and writers take up drinking?”

    Eloise dr. Sinthome doesn’t like to hear such platitudes, especially since she’s now such a VIP
    personality of the object-orientosphere and the Egyptian temptress’s favorite.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 30 June 2009 @ 7:37 pm

  9. Well at least we didn’t get yelled at.


    Comment by john doyle — 30 June 2009 @ 8:02 pm

  10. “But it turns out that behind all the mystification stands the Big White Daddy. Arguably that’s who also stands behind Western orientalism: the Big Other of money and power who deflects attention and hostility from Himself onto the cultural Other.”

    Good point, John. Noah Cross keeps mentioning how his daughter is troubled or even unhinged.

    Cross, on the other hand, is seemingly straightforward in his talk but deceives himself about his ethics: he generalises his crimes as what anybody, given the moment, is capable of, whereas Evelyn is just insane.

    Rationalisation: ugly buildings and old whores all become respectable if they live long enough. And what does old man Cross want that he doesn’t already have? The Future, Mr Gits [sic], the Future. Lust for power must end in a demand for posterity, respectability, life after death, with Evelyn and the rest dead and buried.

    For me, the secret between Evelyn and her father symbolises how the deceit of the bigger plot (of business) affects – or should consciously affect – everyone in LA in the most intimate way. …But let’s just forget it, Jake, it’s … Chinatown.


    Comment by NB — 1 July 2009 @ 3:19 am

  11. I mus’ admit I shat in me underwear when dr Sinthome confessed that he had some sinthomes related to being too rigid and unpossessive of a sense of humor. This is prime cartoon material.

    My impression of the first thirty or so pages is that despite the style indeed being a bit theory-overladen, what he says is just so fascinating that I’m willing to forgive him. And I think what he says is that De Palma’s framing reflects the fourth dimension, the ”non-place” as he calls it. I am now trying to figure out what he construes out of the whiteness, the blankness – okay clearly that’s death, but it’s also the portal, the screen, as a portal.


    Comment by parody delirium — 1 July 2009 @ 7:34 am

    • I picked up Carrie DVD from the library today, which is addressed in the first part of the book. So I hope to post soon.


      Comment by john doyle — 1 July 2009 @ 6:04 pm

  12. I hadn’t thought about it much previously, nb, but agree with you about the link between the incest and the larger scheme. Cross made a first fortune in some primeval era when he first gained ownership of the water rights; selling those rights to LA he gave birth to a whole city; now he incestuously buys it back again, multiplying his fortune and at the same time expanding the city still farther. He’s the father of the same city twice already, now to be a third time.


    Comment by john doyle — 1 July 2009 @ 1:26 pm

  13. http://parodycentrum.blogspot.com/2009/07/dr-sinthome-and-objects-part-2.html

    clysmatics to be honest the scene made me think of getting fucked by jack nicholson while i’m fucking faye dunaway, because they’re both goddamn hot.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 2 July 2009 @ 8:50 am

  14. speaking of screen as portal the new Disney 3D system emulates it, you can also do this by arty farty inference as Lynch does but here it’s explicit, and this creates exciting new effects, eg the plot of ICE AGE 3. which is highly episodic as befits an operetta suddenly becomes logical and pleasant to follow in the semi-theatrical space opened by the 3D, because the sub-lots shoot in different directions and from different perspectives logically, given the presence of depth (understood here not only as the 3D effect in the foreground, on the Z axis, but also that invisible ”no place” that the book on Palma is about).

    This is just to show one example of why I think this is relevant, extremely relevant.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 2 July 2009 @ 8:54 am

  15. “And what does old man Cross want that he doesn’t already have? The Future, Mr Gits [sic], the Future.”

    This is the idea from Peretz’s book on DePalma: that which makes sense of the fragments of ordinary reality isn’t some other dimension beyond the sensory, but rather the future. Jake’s blindness, his inability to infer the meaning of the things he discovers, is “blindness to one’s self as a being inscribed in time.” It’s a “blindness to time.” Noah Cross wants to buy his way out of this temporal blindness. He’s the Big Other who sees the future and who can consequently makes sense of all the clues. To “make sense” for Cross is literally to make it, to create it, rather than to discover it.


    Comment by john doyle — 2 July 2009 @ 11:44 am

  16. Coincidentally, last night I watched Almodóvar’s Volver, which also deals with father-daughter incest. In Volver, though, the women win: they simply kill the husbands/fathers and carry on without much of a backward glance. their only regrets being that they didn’t act sooner.


    Comment by john doyle — 2 July 2009 @ 1:23 pm

  17. Here’s a portalic treatment of Chinatown assembled from clips by reviewer/critic Jim Emerson.


    Comment by john doyle — 15 April 2010 @ 5:54 am

  18. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_Reservoir

    That’s the reservoir, also called Lake Hollywood, that was made in 1924. That’s a dreadful photo or whatever that is, it doesnt’ look at all like that. It’s still fairly unknown, even to Los Angeles inhabitants, although I’d read about it, and visited it in 2001, on that early 3-day trip. This was before I saw ‘Chinatown’ again a month or two later, and before I went out there in December 2001, which is the main trip I wrote about. I had written a story about that first trip, in which I specifically stayed away from Beverly Hills and the chic stuff for some reason (end of an era in my life, I suppose), and started with the Watts Towers, which were fenced up at the time, followed the next day with a trip to Santa Cataline (where the famous Casino is, and you see this in ‘Chinatown’, but I didn’t know it at the time, in fact, had never heard of it, and you see it when Huston is talking in a restaurant to Nicholson, I think, but strangely that really is a long time ago, even though the period begun by that trip, my second out there, hasn’t ended, and I can’t remember for sure, but you see the Casino in the background), where I met a homphobic preacher from Wetumpka, Alabama, where I once had an aunt and uncle and their family, and who changed my use of ‘lavender’ to ‘lilac’, and said ‘well, yes, I can TELL you’re an artist’, by which he meant fag-git. I told him I was staying in Hollywood, where I always do. He said ‘oh yeah I’ve been to Hollywood’. There were several moments in Catalina in which you could feel the inhabitants total divorce from Los Angeles, even though it is not really. It’s an incredible place, and the people are extreme right-wing and very unpleasant, they never ‘swing’ like their angeleno neighbours across the bay. Cataline is protected wilderness, and it’s spectacular; I never experienced ‘impersonal nature’ to the degree I did that afternoon by myself up among those desert hills and plants, alone after I got past that thoroughly horrid little town of Avalon, where everybody was disapproving and people drove around in golf-carts (off the golf course). I later saw it from the air in 2003 coming back from Tahiti, and it is quite special as nature. Down in it, it is like you expect Bob Hope or Kirk Douglas to appear, and those old types that are still around do go out there. The preacher was 7th Day Adventist, and the ‘lavender’ had come from me via a 7th Adventist church which I had seen the day before on Hollywood Boulevard, and it’s still there. I suppose he wanted to separate us, since he could tell I was having a hard time not finding him disgusting.

    The next day I consciously wanted to conclude that short trip with another Deep Metropolis experience, even though Catalina had been concluded back on the Long Beach side with me having to huddle up with an Indian I detested as much as he detested me, against the terror of crack addicts on the Long Beach Blue Line that night (I’ve never done that again, the gangsters are really on there at night, and Jack also nearly also got killed there in 2007). After we got off the train, we didn’t even say goodbye: Wartime allies often loathe each other again when it becomes safe and convenient.

    So, anyway, I was determined on my last full day to get to Lake Hollywood. At the time, I didn’t know it was part of the diverted water from the scandals of the 20s. I took a lot of photos of it, it was divine up there, and even the busdrivers had never heard of it. I lucked up when one passenger told me the near-secret directions to Lake Hollywood Drive. It’s stunning, they keep it fenced in so it’s pristine and you have a view of the entire Los Angeles Basin. But this was also in the film, that’s where the Polanski character carves up Nicholson’s nose, and where you still see lots of fences like that, and there’s probably still an excavation of the sort I saw in 2001 that hasn’t been finished. At the top of Lake Hollywood Drive is Wonder View Drive, where Madonna had a house, and that’s the one where she had a stalker come up to her, and she moved quickly.

    In the Dec. 2001 trip, that I mostly wrote about, I consciously was seeking out places that had figured in ‘Chinatown’. I hadn’t known I’d taken care of the most special one, and you’d really never know it was an artificial lake–of all lakes I’ve ever seen, that one I find the most beautiful. I also went to Chinatown itself, and talked to a Chinese couple. I discovered the CBS Seafood Restaurant, which is better than any Chinese restaurant I have ever found anywhere, and I have had the same dish in 2001, 2005, and again this year, 2009.

    The day following I went on a long ride through Palos Verdes and out to San Pedro, where is Point Fermin, and that is in one of the shorter later shots where Jack is at the ocean talking to somebody. I have to watch this again right away, I see. It had been a long ride, and it got very cold, I talked to a Polish-Mexican woman for a long time and we never got the bus to Point Fermin. I photographed the area of San Pedro where we were sitting, including a Papeete Street, a Mexican bar, and a Hotel California down the block. The bus drivers would NOT pick us up, and it became too late, and I never got to Pt. Fermin. My attempts to get back to Hollywood on a more straightforward route almost got me killed by a drunk busdriver almost to Compton, until I began to totally freak and realize that things were closing in, including passengers getting very hostile, I got off, this was followed by a road rage busdriver back to San Pedro, and back in San Pedro there was a Chinese restaurant in which a woman was talking loudly about her psychosis at the table. It took me 6 hours to get back, going all the way back through Palos Verdes. I think one of the earlier drafts fot Day of Cine-Musique was about this particular day, which followed those paradisical ones at the beginning of the trip–Ann-Margret, etc., and I remember when we were in that drunkard’s bus, I began to realize that it had only been two days since I’d been to her house. Narcissistic, but hey, you gotta live, even if it means you get a little techy about thugs. That had been made into a full story called ‘Pleasure Discharge in Lomita’, Lomita being one of the neighborhoods we went through with the drunk busdriver who was screaming while driving us up to Compton before I freaked.

    But I don’t see the criminality of the Los Angeles Water Scandals as being atypical of any ambitious metropolitan area, it’s just shaped differently, I suppose, so it seems more egregious. Which doesn’t mean that, because Lake Hollywood ended up a brilliant creation, that I think that ‘makes it okay’. No, it’s the whole city where Evelyn got fucked by her father despite, not because of the water diversion by Mulholland from Owens, that makes it okay. Or not, because that doesn’t matter. Las Vegas has been stealing water for years and leaving areas waste so it can have sprinkling for picnic tables, etc., although whether LV has proved itself with its filth-hotels without sheets and pillows for downwardly mobile types even before the collapse, I don’t know. Interesting aside is how KDD didn’t seem to note the obvious tawdriness of Las Vegas (which I’ve only seen from the air, where it is a perfect jewel at night), while she did call Beverly Hills ‘tawdry’, when it is actually just moneyed and successful. I suppose parts of it are garish, that’s not quite the same.

    In any case, I’d also written a story from that earlier Jan. 2001 trip called ‘The Worship in the High Places’, which Lake Hollywood of ‘Chinatown’ had already seemed. That’s at the top of one of the Hollywood Hills. And I’d like to know, John, what you’ve thought ‘the worship in the high places’ is specifically, and that was was Kings I and II, it was always a sign that the rulers had strayed from God, if they allowed ‘the worship in the high places’. Was that meant that it wasn’t ‘humble enough’ and that it was a way of being ‘exclusive’ in worship?

    So, in this long impromptu here, I’ve talked about both of those trips to Los Angeles in 2001, one before 9/11 and one after. And even 9/11 didn’t distract me from searching out the locales of ‘Chinatown’, although it’s probably the misery of that search for Pt. Fermin that has made me go slack on my usual determination to find something…It seems I always end up on Alameda Street, though, nearly every trip. You’ll remember that was always the street they had to get to, that was where something was going to happen. It goes straight through the real Chinatown and the oldest Spanish street left, Olivera, where there is this touristy little mall thing.

    I had been at a crucial point with ‘the other’ when you posted and NB answered. You posted a couple of days after I received a mysterious long email as well: This was a ‘business proposal’ involving huge sums of money, but at the time I think I thought it was the usual ‘Wall Street Tip’ spambot. I was last night going through cleaning out old emails, and finally read it, dating from 2-3 days before you posted this. It asks me to delete it if I don’t cooperate with it, but the ‘Statute of Limitations’ has 3 months passed, even if I were fool enough to answer something so obviously trying to get security details from me. But what was interesting was the hammering over and over of certain details of life situations and commercial institution names. They were later referred to on a blog, but I didn’t know why, becauase I hadn’t read it.

    What NB said about the business and personal matters all spreading out into the whole city of Los Angeles is true, except too dramatic, cities are formed in hardscrabble fashion, however they get formed. But it does suggest the incest, the deformity, the black spot in Faye’s eye (I’d forgotten that, which is ridiculous, but I had my ear and eye on other things at the time), that does quite logically follow from corruption, and LA is full of it and always has been. Yes, the ‘Future’ of Noah Cross, and of course, the point is that we ALL forget the Evelyn Mulwrays in favour of the Lake Hollywoods and the prosperity of a great city, even if we pay respects to her and her tragedy through a great film. In life, are we sometimes able to reverse this and prevent Evelyn’s fate from being repeated? Yes. But very rarely. It requires enormous courage and if one doesn’t have it, talking about such things is particularly superfluous. But this film does show something, and John’s point about the ‘sacrifice’ is excellent. In an artistic sense, it even ‘heals’ the sacrifice’ by refusing to forget it. But much more action than THEN forgetting about it after you’ve seen the movie is required. That’s why, one day after arriving back in New York, I found the Joan Didion was speaking at Barnard, and went to hear her read. And that was when I did the most extensive Q & A with her, talking about Proust and ‘people getting run over’. but mainly I told her that I’d just been to LA over the weekend, as she too had, coincidentally. And that I had thought of a lot of the experiences she had recorded in that area of Hollywood in the mid-60s when she lived with her husband and child on Franklin Avenue. In the White Album, which was written from 1968-1978, essays, ‘quite often I reflect on the big house in Hollywood’. So I quoted this passage to her and told her I hadn’t been able to find the area threatening, and continued from the quote ‘…but do you STILL reflect on the big house in Hollywood’. I think I reported this already, so forgive me this along with eh rest of my indulgence here, I know I’ve written a near-novel. But she knew EXACTLY what I was demanding, and a knowing look came to her immediately. She knew I wanted to know how valuable her work was directly from the horse’s mouth. And so she said, after a little ironic smile ‘They’re still with me. You have to understand that we were really very broke at the time…’ and from there, found out that the essay, which said the house was slated for demolitiion, was still there, in fact. And then in December I went there twice, and one of the times was after the panic experience in the wilds of Compton and Lomita.

    But Evelyn Mulwray is the deformity that gets no mercy. Something makes her ‘not quick enough’ to get the mercy.

    NB writes: “Rationalisation: ugly buildings and old whores all become respectable if they live long enough. ”

    That’s both true and also bullshit, because it doesn’t always happen anyway. Only sometimes, and only if the whores keep their beauty, and only if the buildings were never really ugly. The wedding-cake-blue skyscraper near Bloomingdale’a and the rest of the 80s Reagans, the Worldwide Plaza for Ogilvy and Mather, are all still ugly. But, for the most part, that’s true. Things that survive are tolerated, things like Dick Cheney have a harder time, but nobody really prosecutes Donald Rumsfeld for ‘war crimes’, etc., and the negligence of the 9/11 intelligence ‘not being ignored by Gore’, from whom the 2000 election was obviously stolen, is rarely brought up, although Hillary did do it once. I was surprised though.


    Comment by anonymous — 15 April 2010 @ 11:11 am

  19. Thank you for the extravagance, Anonyme. I admire your L.A. pilgrimages, in which you uncover some of these hidden gems of Hollywood lore. Chinatown is a movie I could never tire of watching, not least because it captures the mood so perfectly, the glamorous but decadent allure.

    As I was writing this we got an email from a commercial cinematographer friend who lives in L.A.:

    “Nice to hear from you. I got back and worked hard on a job for a department store, then next week I have to go to Chicago for another one. That’s good news. I found out that X (his ex-wife, who’s facing assault charges) is in L.A., and talking about buying Louis Vuitton bags and staying at hotels with ocean views, so I’m not sure what to think about anything anymore. Really weird time.”


    Comment by john doyle — 15 April 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  20. “Chinatown is a movie I could never tire of watching, not least because it captures the mood so perfectly, the glamorous but decadent allure.”

    Oh yes, ‘Chinatown’ is everything it’s cracked up to be, I remember the cinematographer John Bailey, who wasn’t well-known in the field back then and was just a friend of a once-close friend of mine, coming home from the premiere, overwhelmed at how good it was, and he was not one for the hickish oohs and ahs. I paid no attention to him at the time, and didn’t see it till sometime in the late 80s, paying it little attention. It’s always in my Top 10, along with ‘Some Like It Hot’, which I’ve been watching to go to sleep by recently. You know, it is a kind of subtle musical comedy, it’s not only got Marilyn’s divine songs, but the dialogue and blocking of some of the scenes have the ‘logic’ of musicals, while being much more sophisticated. They are all simply incredible in it, the leads and the supporting cast, too. Always fantastic when Curtis goes up and kisses Marilyn onstage while in drag, and the conductress Lesbian freaks so hilariously.

    I guess the Towne screenplay for ‘Chinatown’ may be the single most admired of all American screenplays, but there’s never been a noir to quite touch it, good as ‘Out of the Past’ (you may know this, with Mitchum/Greer, the 1983 ‘Against all Odds’ with Bridges/Rachel Ward is based on it, I think it’s also very good), and a couple of the Chandler-based (only a couple IMO though–both versions of ‘Farewell, My Lovely’ with D. Powell and then with Mitchum, but the Bogey ones don’t work for me, he couldn’t quite get Marlowe, although I like Bogey a lot), pulpy good ones like ‘Kiss me Deadly’ and ‘Criss Cross’ with Lancaster/DeCarlo. Maybe ‘Double Indemnity’ is the only ‘conten-duh’ to ‘Chinatown’, but it doesn’t have the mystery (and a superb noir score that is irresistible) to nearly so elaborate a degree, but it’s Billy Wilder again (now that was a talent), and the two leads are stupendous, and finally ‘Mulholland Drive’ is very evocative and true about its material, but not in quite the way ‘Chinatown’ is. The figure of Noah Cross is a very strong character, it’s not just Evelyn. And John Huston’s performance was unparallelled of this kind in my experience. To think that by 2006 we had Noah/Evelyn ‘channellers’: Hilary Swank’s rich Bel Air Lesbian manages to mimic Dunaway from start to finish and with utterly odious effects, and a few years later everybody sees Daniel Day-Lewis doing Huston in that appalling film There Will Be Blood, but it hadn’t occurred to me till today that he might be also doing Noah Cross. Why not? No wonder Day-Lewis needs such enormous publicity for all his ‘homework’ and ‘research’: It sure looks and sounds like a lot of overwrought shit. He’s much better for Edith Wharton or E. M. Forster adaptations, but ‘won’t be typecast’, just like Julie Andrews. We ought to be able to expect even less for him as time goes by, and ‘Nine’ was supposed to be hideous.


    Comment by anonymous — 15 April 2010 @ 3:51 pm

  21. Musically I think mostly of that trumpet piece, but Emerson’s collage also included the tense low-register staccato piano part which is also excellent. Chinatown is one of my top ten as well; also Mulholland Drive. I watched a weird Godard movie last night: Alphaville, which is a noir scifi. While it offered some amusing cinematic tricks, strange scenarios, and interesting-looking people, I didn’t care for it as a whole. I had some interest in Nine, and understand that Sophia Loren appears in it, but I guess I’ll skip it. Speaking of Charles Laughton, he directed Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters in the terrific Touch of Evil, which has some noirish qualities. The Third Man!


    Comment by john doyle — 15 April 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    • Oh yes, how could I forget ‘Touch of Evil’, the other noir genius work. I don’t think it’s quite as irresistible as ‘Chinatown’, but it’s very beautiful, and god, what a cast, even Zsa Zsa’s in it. Aha! that’s Orson Welles though, I had to look it up to see the one you meant, ‘Night of the Hunter’, that I ought to watch again, never tire of Mitchum, and he and Marilyn are hot in the corny ‘River of No Return’.

      I liked ‘Alphaville’ pretty well after a couple of times, but I’m not a huge Godard fan. Christian is, but the only ones that I really enjoy are ‘pierrot le fou’ and ‘contempt’ with Bardot. I guess I like Belmondo, but the other ones considered masterpieces, like ‘Band of Outsiders’ and ‘A Woman is a Woman’ I just kind of like. And definitely none in my Top 10 or probably even 20. I do recall reading that Jean-Pierre Leaud said he preferred doing his Antoine Doinel character for Godard than Truffaut, but I much prefer Truffaut. I’m glad you brought these up, though, as I think I’ll request both ‘Night of the Hunter’ and try ‘Alphaville’ again.


      Comment by anonymous — 15 April 2010 @ 6:34 pm

      • Sorry, I think all the Antoine Doinels were Truffaut, and maybe Leaud said he preferred working with Godard, as in ‘La Chinoise’, during his Maoist period, and ‘Weekend’. I’m not exactly anti-arty, I think I just dislike Godard’s sense of colour–or just something grates on me. But, for example, ‘Baisers Voles’ of Truffaut is one of my favourite films, can you imagine a Godard film with opening credits accompanied by a song be Charles Trenet? I can’t. And there’s that weird ‘King Lear’ thing he did with Woody Allen. I think I’ve never been able to bring myself to watch it, but I like that I’m not sure whether I have or not.


        Comment by anonymous — 15 April 2010 @ 6:42 pm

  22. Yes, Night of the Hunter — sorry, I fucked up the titles. I read that Welles wanted to take the crappiest B-movie story and make a great film out of it, just to prove he could do it, which became Touch of Evil. Welles was really great playing the cop.

    In Alphaville I particularly liked the executions of political prisoners at the swimming pool, where the synchronized girl swimmers would retrieve the bodies from the pool. Contempt is the one Godard film that I really liked thoroughly, though I’ve not seen all of them by any means. I read that he was inspired to make Breathless after seeing Touch of Evil.


    Comment by john doyle — 15 April 2010 @ 9:20 pm

  23. I wonder what your thoughts are on the correlation between Chinatown and Vertigo. Did Towne ‘borrow’ the idea from Hitchcock?:Or are there other earlier, similar works?


    Comment by thekitschwitch — 3 December 2016 @ 3:19 am

    • Sorry for not replying sooner — email notifications of new comments were being inexplicably sidetracked.

      I don’t know the lore about Chinatown’s backstory. Both movies are seen through the lens of a private eye who’s being deceived by his client. Chinatown seems more indebted to film noir, but it would be hard to ignore Vertigo if you were writing a film that’s so explicitly set in old Hollywood. Vertigo has that time slippage thing going on: dizzy not just from heights but from time being out of joint. Chinatown does it too: she’s my daughter; she’s my sister — a doubling similar to Madeleine/Carlotta as well as Madeleine/Judy. Both movies feature a femme fatale who herself ends up a fatality. So yes, I think you’re on to something by exploring the connections between these two great movies.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by ktismatics — 1 April 2017 @ 8:10 am

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