130 minutes| U.S.A.| 1974| Colour| Anamorphic| 35mm

With its intricate plot and lavish ’30s setting, Chinatown might initially induce nostalgia; by the end, one is all but overwhelmed by the scale of sexual and political corruption uncovered by a detective who thought he was investigating a minor case of marital infidelity. Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway inhabit the Bogart-Bacall roles of old, but now the detective is not as smart as he thinks, the heroine’s wit is a cover for neurosis, and the secret at the film’s heart turns the hero’s habitual cynicism into genuine horror. Playing a monster who has raped the land and his daughter, John Huston is astutely cast for, as the director of The Maltese Falcon, he brings resonant associations that illustrate how far that world of honour and heroism has fallen. Here Polanski and his splendid screenwriter Robert Towne show the limits of individualism and the allure of evil, with a devastating final scene that has the weight of modern tragedy. (Notes by Neil Sinyard).

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