Chinatown Film Analysis

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Los Angeles is truly a living example of the biblical Garden of Eden. It represents a city of both paradise and temptation. Chinatown seemingly represents this biblical land. Detective JJ Gittes battles a corrupt government and the evil businessman, Noah Cross. In many ways Chinatown acts as a 1970s noir film. However, Chinatown is neo-noir. Director Roman Polanski and screenwriter Robert Towne portray Los Angeles as a gorgeous but rotten city while using historical inaccuracies to create a neo-noir film that both represents and disavows traditional film noir. Chinatown portrays Los Angeles as a gorgeous but sinful city. Throughout Chinatown we are treated to exquisite views of the city of Los Angeles. JJ Gittes travels throughout the city.…show more content…
The Owen’s Valley Water Wars serves as the basis of the 1930’s set Chinatown. However, the Owens Valley Water Wars that is central to the narrative of Chinatown occurred in the early 20th century. Polanski and Towne double down to further manipulate history by modifying historical characters. The characters of JJ Gittes, Evelyn Mulwray, and Noah Cross are completely fictional. However, the character of Hollis Mulwray does have a historical counterpart—William Mullholland. Hollis Mulwray and William Mullholland both serve as officials in Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. However, after this similarity the characters diverge remarkably. Hollis Mulwray is a tragic hero. Mulwray acts to stop the building of a new reservoir, as it would benefit the corrupt Noah Cross at the expense of the citizens of Los Angeles. Mulwray’s opposition leads to his murder at the hands of Cross. William Mullholland is no tragic hero like Mulwray. Mullholland did exactly what Noah Cross did in Chinatown. Mullholland conspired with Los Angeles Mayor Fred Eaton to purchase cheap land in the Owen Valley under the allusion the water would benefit Los Angeles’s residents. The scam created massive profits for Mullholland and Eaton. Polanski has a reason for including this contradiction—the creation of a narrative that fit 1970s…show more content…
Evelyn’s complexity is based off the feminism movements of this period. The feminism movements of this period advocated for women to have more rights and roles. Polanski’s creation of Evelyn allows her to not be merely just a beautiful woman but an investigative partner to JJ Gittes. Evelyn is a product of Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan. The tone of noir fits 1970s American society. Noir represents pessimism and frustration. In Chinatown, the killer is not arrested and the government and police are corrupt. This idea mirrors the society of America at the time. An era that was characterized by the Vietnam War, Watergate, and Charles Manson. Polanski puts the frustrations of America into Chinatown as a way to express pessimism. Chinatown is a product of a pessimistic society. Polanski uses noir as a way to ground his film and portray American society as a whole. However, Polanski uses new techniques like complex female characters and color to refine noir. These innovations help create neo-noir which is basically refined noir and can be seen in the films of
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