Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Forget it, it's a new review. So, it's been a few days, but my internet is getting all wonky. I have no idea why, but it's not relevant to my thoughts on Chinatown. It's hard to talk about this movie without addressing the elephant in the room. The giant, child raping elephant in the room. You'd think directing a film that deals in stark detail with the brutal fall out of child rape would have had some effect on director Roman Polanski, but maybe he figured it wasn't so bad if it wasn't incestuous. Who knows? I am usually pretty good at divorcing Art from Artist, but I get a kind of sick feeling over the idea of providing economic support to someone who has done something so morally repugnant. I had somehow missed that Polanski was the director of Chinatown, so I queued it up in Netflix and had started watching it before I realized it. I'm guessing I'll wait on watching Rosemary's Baby. There are over 500 films left to watch - it's possible he'll die before I get to it and then I won't have a moral crisis over whether to give him monetary support by watching the film. So beyond my ethical dilemma, let's talk about the film. There is a reason Polanski does well as a director - he is very, very good at it. Chinatown itself is a film that works on every level. It feels like watching a sleazier version of "The Tell-Tale Heart", like there's a driving pulse behind the action. Jack Nicholson is superbly on the edge, as usual, though he's more restrained than usual in this performance. It's a film that helped convince me that you can make film noir in color, though most directors shouldn't. However, here, all the glitzy colors manage to look sinister. The brighter the lights, the deeper the shadows. The shots in this film were almost as beautiful as in a Kubrick picture. And the plot... it's gripping and terrifying and stunning and horrible. It would be enough of a task to make the audience interested in a film noir about water rustling (which it manages to do), but murder and incest really ramp up the creep factor. Though there is a moment of what TVTropers refer to as "Narm" (a moment meant to be serious or dramatic that ends up being goofy) where Jack Nicholson is slapping Faye Dunaway as she screams "My sister! My daughter!". Faye Dunaway is kind of a Narm Queen, isn't she? But that's all erased in the haunting final line, which is definitely one of the best in film history. But what does it mean to forget the injustice and the evil and just walk away? Is there some sort of significance in Polanski insisting on that ending? I don't know. I'm not a film critic, I'm a blogger. I can't say "Watch this movie" because of my ethical quandary, but I also can't say "Don't watch this movie" because it is a top-notch example of film-making. Now I really understand why Death of the Artist is so popular in literary criticism, but as an English grad student, I usually have the luxury of my objectionable artists being actually dead.