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Any Chinatown Fans?


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{font:'lucida grande', tahoma, verdana, arial, sans-serif}{size:11px}Roman Polanski's genius is questionable. Whether or not he does possess a certain cinematic genius is neither urgent or necessary to conclude. His body of work speaks for itself, his 1974 magnum opus speaks for its decade, reality in the face of theatricality, and for the sanctity of the cinema itself. Now although it is not completely justifiable to prove whether Polanski is or is not a genius, it is rather important to discuss the life of this idolized and wanted man. Roman Polanski was born in the year 1933 in Paris to Polish parents. When his mother and father were forced into concentration camps for being Jewish, Polanski was faced with the unmeasurable difficulty of surviving the Holocaust on his own. His Mother, ultimately, fell victim to the horrors of Auschwitz. If that's not enough, if you would so melodramatically fast forward to the year of 1969. To the Summer Of Love. To the end of the small portion of Polanski's life he would later recall as the happiest he's ever had. He had a beautiful, talented, and adoring wife. Her name was Sharon Tate. The baby inside of her, she and Roman would never name. In August of 1969 the Manson Family laid slain to Sharon Tate and the baby inside of her, both terrorizing and taunting, the darkest chapter of Polanski's life was marooned with notoriety and fear. It was only a few years after the death of his wife where Roman would leave his mark on the world forever. Chinatown flows with a lavishly perfected Noir tone, and I should add here, the film is the Neo Noir archetype, the best of its kind and one of the best that Film Noir carries in its respective canon. Also, whenever one sets out to write about Chinatown, one cannot understate the delicacy, the supreme handling of pacing which is to be found in this particular film. Not before, and not since, has pacing been so well thought out, so marvelously calculated, and devilishly crafted. Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway stand immortal in this film, bellowing through the tenement halls inside of every dirty city confined within every Noir film in rotation. If Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway stand luminous as Kings of their respective Kingdom, then John Huston stands apart; shrouded in darkness, transparent, eager, vicious, immediate. John Huston's 'Noah Cross' exists, alright, and the most dangerous thing about the 'Noah Cross's of the world is that the evil within them is otherwise ordinary, bottomless, and unstoppable. Robert Towne's script is simply impeccable. Flawless storytelling accompanied by snappy dialogue, and a climax that cuts deeper than that of documentary reality. But it is Polanski who is the true star of this picture. You can see him in every shot, peering in through the lens, and directly into your heart. You can taste him in every dry patch of dialogue, smell him in the midst of gun smoke, and fear him as the tension culminates into the wake of tragedy. It is there, in the tragedy, he dares you to hope for the best, he wants to feel safe because films make you feel comfortable. He takes the trust that he'd earned from the audience, and crushes it, oh, and he makes sure it stings. He makes sure it hurts. And in in the aftermath of the his final act, his final betrayal, the ultimate tragedy, he makes sure you can feel him. He leaves you in pain. He leaves you guilty in satisfaction. Knowing that tragedy is the most universal of luxuries, Polanski makes that perfectly clear, and for the first time, his voice is heard, his war cry. Coherent and horrifying.{font}
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Watched it a day ago for the first time in a long time, and loved it, I'd forgotten how beautiful the cinematography is. I'd seen it in theaters when it first came out and subsequently over the years when it was on TV.


Over the years and especially over the last 10 years I've really come to appreciate Film Noir, so I've been delving into all the Noirs I can find, and of course with the loose definition of Noir you find quite a wide spectrum. If any of you have been following my Hard Core Noir thread you know that I've been wrestling with the term and I think I've finally come to a point where I have something that I can live with, and I posted this first on the "Is Casablanca a Noir?" thread:


It would almost be better to say that, rather than call these "Noir" films a genre call them a style/tool of film making used in certain film/plot sequences, or even for a films entirety, that was used to conveyed claustrophobia, alienation, obsession, and events spiraling out of control. This style/tool came to fruition in the roughly the period of the last two and a half decades of B&W film.


Then you can say we have this Film Noir Style that can have two opposite poles one would be *Films de la nuit*, Films of the night, or Films de la nuit éternelle, Films of the eternal night, the opposite would be *Films Soleil*, films of the sun, those sun baked, filled with light Noirs, then all the rest would fit in the spectrum in between being various shades of grey or *Films Gris*. No? ;-)


Its still messy no matter how you slice it. In Biesen's book Blackout: WWII and the origins of Film Noir, its interesting to note that before there was a label "Film Noir" the New York Times called these series of films "The Red Meat Crime Cycle" emphasizing their hard boiled "crime" angle.


So now revisiting *Chinatown* if anything its more a Private Eye film in the Film Soleil Noir style. There are only about three night sequences in a film that is flooded with light, and rather than homage Classic Noir its more an homage to the literary subjects of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich and James M. Cain


Check out in comparison its based on the novel of the same name by Chandler but it does homage Classic Film Noir, it almost entirely takes place at night, and as a bonus it brings at least two classic Noir period actors back to star in it.


Now nobody thought of it but if someone had really wanted to jump start a Noir style series of films Back in the early 70's they should have taken the*Farewell My lovely* approach bringing on classic Noir actors in at least say 1/2 the parts, that way you'd get some "cinematic memory" attached to the projects and new Noir-ish faces to continue the tradition (like say Harry Dean Stanton in *Farewell My Lovely* There was a golden opportunity window between the end of the Hayes Code and before today's PC "code" mentality where the original material based on the Hard Boiled school of writing could have been filmed as the authors had written them. (I know that John Huston from that classic era was marvelous in*Chinatown* but just think how much more amazing both of these films could have been if some of the actors from the list below could have had cameos.


a few Noir Actors alive at filming of Chinatown 1974 (I'm sure there are many I'm forgetting)


Elisha Cook Jr. (71)

Audrey Totter possibly still alive? (56)

Farley Granger (49)

Marie Windsor (55)

Laurence Tierney (55)

Robert Mitchum (57)

John Ireland (60)

Dana Andrews (65)

Victor Mature (61)

John Payne (62)

Richard Widmark (60)

Evelyn Keyes (58)

Ralph Meeker (54)

Charles McGraw (60)

Harry Belafonte still alive (47)

Janet Leigh (47)

Shelly Winters (54)

Orson Welles (59)

Rita Hayworth (56)

Harry Morgan (59)

Lee Van Cleef (49)

Earl Holliman still alive (46)

Strother Martin (55)

Jack Elam (54)

Cornel Wilde (62)

Richard Conte (64)

Jean Wallace (51)

Sterling Hayden (58)

Charles Bronson (53)

Dub Taylor (67)


Edited by: cigarjoe on Apr 5, 2012 8:02 PM

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  • 4 years later...

Regarding your *Films Soleil* - Wasn't D.O.A. filmed mostly in the bright sun of daylight?  It's super noir.

It's roughly half and half from what I remember the the first half mostly Soleil, the latter Noir. Even Naked City is is mostly sunny if you think about it.

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