In this essay I will discuss technical, stylistic, and storytelling from one of the great American noir films of all time, Chinatown. The storyline is unparalleled and the portrayal of the characters by Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway are brilliant. Director Roman Polanski and writer Robert Towne created a masterpiece, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. The duo captures everything that is film noir from the World War II times while tweaking the rules along the way.
Chinatown is set in sunny Los Angeles. Film noir is typically told in a dark and sometimes rainy environment, complete with shadows and low-key lighting during most of the scenes. The films from noir genre in the 1940’s were shot in black and white; Chinatown is shot in color while keeping the same feel as similar films in the genre. Gittes office loudly screams film noir, as it is drenched in classic blind-driven shadows. Chinatown also embodies film noir with many scenes shot at night, such as when private investigator Gittes attempts to find out what really is happening with the water supply while he is rudely welcomed with a blade inside his nostril. Another scene that gives the classic noir feel is when Gittes and the femme fatale Evelyn Mulwray meet in a shadow filled car outside of a house that is holding Mulwray’s mistress. The shadows dominate the inside of the car and there is only enough light to show both of their faces and nothing more.
The clothing worn by Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway did not let us down. In classic noir films, the detective predominately sported a trench coat or suit and a hat. Gittes is always draped in the finest fabrics throughout the film. From Gittes silk suits to his silk pajamas; the private investigator is always looking dapper. Faye Dunaway is also known for her style in the film. From Evelyn’s over-the-top fur and hat complete with feathers to her silk robe pajamas; the femme fatale imprinted fashion trends across...
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