Chinatown: Jj Gittes Within the Archetype of Noir Heroes

Topics: Roman Polanski, Film noir, Chinatown Pages: 3 (1003 words) Published: October 14, 2012
J.J. Gittes is a private detective in L.A., 1937. The film begins when a woman claiming to be Evelyn Mulwray comes into his office and insists that her husband, Hollis Mulwray, is having an affair. But when Gittes follows Hollis, he winds up spending more of his time exploring the drought than discovering romantic liaisons, until finally a small blond enters the picture. The setup is that of quintessential film noir standards, though rooted in historical events. However, director Roman Polanski quickly ushers his leading man into a theater of absurdity, perversion and tragedy within the family, not as a concept, or cultural ideal, but one composed of complex characters bonded by intricate relationships and harrowing pasts. With 1974’s Chinatown, Polanski manipulates noir motifs and archetypes masterfully to create a personal statement of anguish and pessimism, with Gittes as his detective to whom human limitations apply, a real man measured against the faculties of noir heroes. The script, written by Robert Towne, recalls that of The Big Sleep, wherein a seemingly regular case unravels into a cluster of mysteries, the answer to which eludes the detective, and at times even the audience, throughout the film. It departs from the classic noir models in its character development and by consistently returning the horrors and repercussions of the case to the character’s personal lives. Gittes’ coaxed investigation and, according to the real Evelyn Mulwray, poor detective work plays an integral role and implicates him in the murder of Hollis - who not only had no mistress but was attempting to prevent Noah from gaining control of the city’s water supply. When Gittes becomes involved with Hollis’s widow, their relationship progresses accordingly to the Nnir template of romance, wherein it does not take long to fall for and get in deep with a broad, but, surprisingly, neither of their motives fit the archetypes we expect. Throughout the film, Gittes is hanging by the...
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