Film review: Chinatown, Roman Polanski's Californian noir
A season of Roman Polanski films at the BFI kicks off with his very greatest, a Californian noir about water and power with a strong undertow of Greek tragedy.
"Forget it, Jake – it's Chinatown", goes the famous last line, yet everything about Chinatown is memorable, starting with Robert Towne's Oscar-winning script, Jack Nicholson's most nuanced performance, Richard Sylbert's exquisite production design, John A Alonzo's burnished photography, Jerry Goldsmith's tense, mournful score.
It all clicks together with the precision of a Swiss watch. Polanski himself appears as a malevolent knifeman who cuts Nicholson's nose to spite his face – and even the bandage put across it became unforgettable.
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