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I remember my teacher telling me how good this movie was and how well crafted it was. I do not deny that at times it is clever, but at other times I wonder what is the point. The reason for the title is so muted and told through dialogue and one scene that I do not much care for the way the director tells his themes or motifs.
Also, I got a little bored so when it came to figuring out the plot, I don't know how everything connected. First it's an affair then it's water then it's family issues. I enjoy "detective" type movies at times, but this was not my cup of tea.
Though, it is a classic now, and the acting is well done.
I appreciate this movie, though I would not necessarily want to watch it again. The scenes were entertaining at times, and his methods of work was clever.
|Jack Nicholson||J. J. Gittes|
|Faye Dunaway||Evelyn Cross Mulwray|
|John Huston||Noah Cross|
|Perry Lopez||Lieutenant Lou Escobar|
|John Hillerman||Russ Yelburton|
|Darrell Zwerling||Hollis I. Mulwray|
|Diane Ladd||Ida Sessions|
|Roy Jenson||Claude Mulvihill|
|Roman Polanski||Man with Knife|
|Richard Bakalyan||Detective Loach|
|James Hong||Evelyn's Butler|
|Roy Roberts||Mayor Bagby|
|Rance Howard||Irate Farmer|
|Fritzi Burr||Mulwray's Secretary|
|Claudio Martinez||Boy on Horseback|
|Federico Roberto||Cross' Butler|
|John A. Alonzo||Director of Photography|
|Jerry Goldsmith||Original Music Composer|
|John C. Hammell||Music Editor|
|Logan Frazee||Special Effects|
|Richard Sylbert||Production Design|
|Anthea Sylbert||Costume Design|
|W. Stewart Campbell||Art Direction|
|Ruby R. Levitt||Set Decoration|
|Bob Cornett||Sound Editor|
"Gittes: Dam nosey detective"
A woman identifying herself as Evelyn Mulwray (Ladd) hires private investigator J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Nicholson) to perform surveillance on her husband Hollis I. Mulwray (Zwerling), the chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Gittes tails him, hears him publicly oppose the creation of a new reservoir, and shoots photographs of him with a young woman (Palmer) that are published on the front page of the following day's paper. Upon his return to his office, Gittes is confronted by a beautiful woman who, after establishing that the two of them have never met, irately informs him she is Evelyn Mulwray (Dunaway) and that he can expect a lawsuit.
Realizing he was set up, Gittes figures whoever did it wants to get Mulwray, but, before he can question the husband, Lieutenant Lou Escobar (Lopez) fishes Mulwray, drowned, from a freshwater reservoir. Suspicious of murder, Gittes investigates and notices that, although huge quantities of water are released from the reservoir every night, the land is almost completely dry. He is confronted by Water Department Security Chief Claude Mulvihill (Jenson) with a henchman (Polanski) who slashes Gittes's nose. Back at his office, Gittes receives a call from Ida Sessions, an actress whom he recognizes as the bogus Mrs. Mulwray. She is afraid to identify her employer, but provides a clue: the name of one of "those people" is in that day's obituaries.
Gittes learns that Mrs. Mulwray's husband was once the business partner of her father, Noah Cross (Huston), so he meets Cross for lunch at his personal club. Cross offers to double Gittes' fee to search for Mulwray's missing girlfriend, plus a bonus if he succeeds. Gittes visits the hall of records where he discovers that many large orange groves have recently changed ownership in the northwest San Fernando Valley. He goes there but is caught and beaten by angry landowners, who believe he is one of the water department agents who have been demolishing their water tanks and poisoning their wells to force them out.
Gittes's review of the obituaries uncovers a former resident of the Mar Vista Inn, a retirement home, who is one of the new landowners in the Valley. He infers that Mulwray was murdered when he learned that the new reservoir would be used to irrigate the newly-purchased properties. Evelyn and Gittes bluff their way into Mar Vista and confirm that the real estate deals are done in the name of its residents without their knowledge. After fleeing from Mulvihill and his thugs, they hide at Evelyn's house, where they nurse each others' wounds and end up in bed together.
Early morning, Evelyn has to leave suddenly, but she warns him that her father is dangerous and crazy. Gittes manages to follow her car to a house where he observes her with Mulwray's girlfriend. He confronts Evelyn, who finally confesses that the woman is her sister.
The next day, an anonymous call draws Gittes to Ida Sessions' apartment; he finds her murdered, with Escobar waiting for his arrival. Escobar pressures him because the coroner's report found salt water in Mulwray's lungs, indicating that the body was moved after death. Escobar suspects Evelyn of the murder, and insists Gittes produce her quickly or he'll face charges of his own.
Gittes returns to Evelyn's mansion. There he discovers a pair of bifocals in her salt water garden pond and finds her servants packing her bags. His suspicions aroused, he confronts Evelyn about her "sister", whom she then claims is her daughter Katherine. Gittes slaps her repeatedly until she cries out "She's my sister and my daughter!", then tearfully asks Gittes if it is "too hard" for him to understand what happened with her father. She points out that the eyeglasses are not her husband's, as he did not wear bifocals.
Gittes makes plans for the two women to flee to Mexico. He instructs Evelyn to meet him at her butler's home in Chinatown. Gittes summons Cross to the Mulwray home to settle their deal for the girl. Cross admits he intends to incorporate the Northwest Valley into the City of Los Angeles, then irrigate and develop it. Gittes produces the bifocals—they belong to Cross and link him to Mulwray's murder. Mulvihill appears, confiscates the glasses, and forces Jake to take them to the women.
When the three reach the hiding place in Chinatown, the police are already there and arrest Gittes. Evelyn will not allow Cross to approach Katherine, and when he is undeterred she shoots him in the arm and drives away with Katherine. As the car speeds off, the police open fire, killing Evelyn. Cross clutches Katherine and leads her away, while Escobar orders Gittes released, along with his associates. One of them urges, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
Theatrical : 1974-06-20 : United States of America
DVD : 1999-11-23