In the screening, we watched Roman Polanski's acclaimed neo-noir, Chinatown (1974), which dealt with the uncovery of a conspiracy involving Los Angeles' water supply and real estate by the private eye Jakes Gittes (Jack Nicholson). The film, my second viewing in fact, was truly terrific, with a solid, confident performance from Nicholson, alongside a rather turbulent & emotional Faye Dunaway as his love interest, and a bombastic, scene-chewing John Huston as the film's defacto villain. Making surprising use of color for such a dark story, and terrifically scored by the one and only Jerry Goldsmith with a terrific use of sax in the main theme, Chinatown transcends mere homage by making its own statements about societal corruption and how, sometimes, good does not always triumph.
Afterwards, we got to talking about the film's production: Robert Evans (the producer) had been rising to the top, turning around the fortunes of Paramount with hits like Coppola's The Godfather (1972), wanted to produce his own film, and knowing Robert Towne, a popular script doctor, got him to write the script for it. Furthermore, Evans brought on European auteur Roman Polanski, who had also scored a hit for Paramount with Rosemary's Baby (1968), who worked with Towne on streamlining, and changed the ending to a more realistic and, well, unhappy one. Towne never liked this, but he still got an Oscar for Best Screenplay.
Then, we got down to talking more about the story and its ideas: the Chinatown of the title, for example, is only visited briefly at the end of the story, and is more of a reference to a never-changing state of mind, or how Gites shares similarities (a code of honour, sticking his neck out and promptly getting whooped by outside forces for it, falling for the client) and differences (he's slicker, better dressed, slightly younger) than the types of detectives & private eyes that inspired his creation. Also, we touched on the visual style the film went for (having gone through three cinematographers), such as the frequent references to seeing devices like binoculars and glasses (nodding to the way the story messes with our perception of events and who is who), or the aforementioned contrasting of widescreen and colour against the period setting & dark nature of the tale, and of course, many classic noirs, and the camera even opts for a first person perspective, again differing itself from its iconic predecessors..