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DVD review: 'Chinatown'
The best thing about studios celebrating their centennial anniversaries is that they tend to dig into their vaults and roll out restored versions of some of their greatest titles, and they don't get much greater than Paramount's 1974 neo-noir nugget, “Chinatown,” now on Blu-ray for the first time.
Jack Nicholson was born to play sharp-dressed, wisecracking private investigator Jake Gittes, an ex-cop with some bad memories of his old Chinatown beat in 1937 Los Angeles, who's doing much better for himself these days tracking down unfaithful wives and husbands — until he uncovers a monumental scam engineered by the corrupt powers-that-be that will shape the future of L.A.
One could argue that this film was a career best for many of its collaborators, including director Roman Polanski, production designer Richard Sylbert and cinematographer John Alonso, who created a beautiful film noir in color, its atmospherics enhanced by Jerry Goldsmith's haunting score with its melancholy trumpet solos. Then there was Faye Dunaway, the lovely but flawed woman of mystery and tragedy with whom Jake becomes involved, and director John Houston in full acting mode as the mighty, menacing and unrepentantly sinful Noah Cross, the manipulator of deceitful doings within the Department of Water and Power.