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"Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown.”

I've watched this two or three times before but not for ten years at least. Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974), a neo-noir mystery thriller starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, is one of my all-time favorites. Everything elbows its way towards the film's perturbing culmination, a blend of noirish bleakness, disillusionment, pessimism, ambiguity, moral corruption, desperation, guilt, and evil.

What the film essentially says to us is the rich and powerful always win in the end despite all good intentions, despite the hero. "Chinatown" isn't just where the film's final few staggering moments unfold; it's a metaphor for authority doing, as Jake puts it in his final words, "as little as possible" while the top brass do what they want to whomever they please, and while the average Jane and Joe, in this case the people of Chinatown but intended as anyone beneath the elite, don't get truth or justice, or even an inkling of what the string-pullers are pulling. Very few films have pulled off such a clever and daring fusion of cynicism and entertainment.


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