- Walsh (Joe Mantell) to Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson)
"It looks like half the city is trying to cover it all up, which is fine with me. But Mrs. Mulwray, I...near lost my nose! And I like it. I like breathing through it. And I still think you're hiding something."
- Jake Gittes to Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway)
"I'm just a snoop."
- Jake Gittes
"Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown."
Academy Awards 1974 -
Best Original Screenplay: Robert Towne
Sight and Sound - 09/01/1974
"...[Polanski] handles the mechanics of the plot with a ruthless brilliance that is immediately involving..."
Entertainment Weekly - 05/29/1998
Chicago Sun-Times - 02/06/2000
"...Like most noir stories, CHINATOWN ends in a flurry of revelation....For Nicholson, the role had enormous importance..."
Total Film - 07/01/2000
"...A film noir masterpiece that never stops screwing with your head..."
Premiere - 04/01/2004
"Faye Dunaway quivers, John Huston looms, but Nicholson's Gittes seems untouchable inside..."
Uncut - 09/01/2004
"[T]he director's dark wit questions the conventions of noir, and exhales stylish seediness."
Empire - 12/01/2007 5 stars out of 5 -- "Jack Nicholson lends J.J. Gittes nervy sharpness, and John Huston fills villainous Noah Cross with menace..."
Many films from the 1970s allow even the most gripping narratives to flow with the consequences of real life. CHINATOWN is a classic film whose intrigues and adventures culminate in life-changing moments for its protagonist, Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson).
Director Roman Polanski's classic neo-noir detective story is set during a heat wave in 1930s Los Angeles, where residents suffer from a water shortage due to an ongoing drought. With stellar contributions from composer Jerry Goldsmith and screenwriter Robert Towne, whose script recalls the hard-boiled cynicism of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, CHINATOWN is a complex and superbly crafted period drama that has become Polanski's most critically acclaimed film. Private investigator Gittes runs a sleazy detective agency. When a client (Diane Ladd) hires him to spy on her "husband," who is rumored to be having an affair with a younger woman, Jake uncovers a plot against the man--but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Still to emerge are a sex scandal implicating the real wife (Faye Dunaway), with whom Jake is destined to become more closely acquainted, and a real estate swindle of tremendous proportions devised by her tycoon father (John Huston), backed up by a vast network of corrupt city officials and landowners who make life hell for the private eye.
This story crystallizes the impact of a chance meeting with the romantic ideals of the early 1970s, when the American urban landscape and economic power structures were in flux.
CHINATOWN is number 19 on the American Film Institute's list of America's 100 Greatest Movies.
CHINATOWN was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1991.
Director Roman Polanski makes a rather conspicuous cameo appearance as a thug.
Screenwriter Robert Towne had originally conceived of an alternate, happier ending to the film, but it was rejected by Polanski.
Polanski went to painstaking lengths to have the film very authentically capture 1930s Los Angeles because the story is based on actual events from the city's history.
CHINATOWN, which was produced in 1974, was Polanski's first American film since 1968's ROSEMARY'S BABY.
In 1990, Jack Nicholson went on to direct and star in the film's sequel, THE TWO JAKES, set in 1948 Los Angeles. The later film also starred Harvey Keitel and Meg Tilly and featured cameo performances by some actors who had parts in the original film, among them Faye Dunaway, James Hong, and Perry Lopez. Robert Towne wrote the screenplays for both films.