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Monday, August 18, 2014

Neo-noir Film #5: Chinatown

A big thank you to everyone who was able to make it out to Fargo last week, we had a wonderful turnout!  This week in our Neo-noir series we will be entering into a little different territory.  Until now, just about all of our films were set in somewhat modern settings while employing the themes and techniques reminiscent of Film noir (hence, neo-noir).  This week's film (as well as next week's) fits into the neo-noir category because it was made after 1960, but is set in the late 1930s, when actual Film noir was being made.  Essentially it is a noir period piece.  This film comes to us from 1974, Roman Polanski's Chinatown.

Chinatown is a 1974 American neo-noir film, directed by Roman Polanski from a screenplay by Robert Towne, and starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.  The film was inspired by the California Water Wars, a series of disputes over southern California water at the beginning of the 20th century by which Los Angeles interests secured water rights in the Owens Valley.  The Robert Evans production, a Paramount Pictures release, was the director's last film in the United States, and features many elements of film noir, particularly a multi-layered story that is part mystery and part psychological drama.

In 1991 the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for films that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," and it is frequently listed among the greatest in world cinema.  The 1975 Academy Awards saw it nominated eleven times, with an Oscar going to Robert Towne for Best Original Screenplay.

The film currently holds a 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 60 reviews.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars and later added it to his list of Great Movies saying of the film, "Chinatown is not only a great entertainment, but something more, something I would have thought impossible:  It's a 1940s private-eye movie that doesn't depend on nostalgia or camp for its effect, but works because of the enduring strength of the genre itself.  In some respects, this movie actually could have been made in the 1940s.  It accepts its conventions and categories at face value and doesn't make them the object of satire or filter them through a modern sensibility...Here's a private-eye movie in which all the traditions, romantic as they may seem, are left intact."

This film and next weeks film are wonderful examples of neo-noir replicating the feel of actual 1930s and 40s film noir in a way we have not yet seen in our series, and you will not want to miss it.  We will be meeting Thursday, Aug. 21st at 6:15pm, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

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