Comments on the Film:
June 6, 2011
The ﬁlm was created in 1974 by:
1. Director: Roman Polanski
2. Script Writer: Robert Town
3. Three main actors:
• Jack Nicholson as J.J Jake Gittis
• Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulray
• John Huston as Noah Cross
4. A production of Paramount Pictures.
1 ’Chinatown’: a short description of the plot
Jake Gittis is a detective that specializes in tracking down cheating wives or husbands. He
takes incriminating photo and shows the evidence the client. He is a small time detective,
but has pride. He tells his associate, that in order to be a detective you need some ﬁnesse.
Certain class. He think of himself (and is) a classy guy.
Hollis Mulray is the chief engineer of the water department of LA. The ﬁlms starts with
a woman claiming to be the ’wife’ of Hollis Mulray comes to his oﬃce and hires Jake to ﬁnd
if her ’husband’ cheats on her. We later learn that she is not he wife of Hollis Mulray.
Jake follows Gittis, unaware that he is been doped. Jake sees Mulray in a public meeting
talking about the construction of some dam. He claims that the dam will not sustain. He
made a mistake to agree to such a dam before, but will not make this mistake again.
At the moment it seems that Mulray has no mistresses. Mulray only visits Water sites.
In one such occasion we see Mulray in a heated debate with some old person whose name
we dont know yet.
Gittis ﬁnally thinks he found the incriminating evidence against Hollis Mulray. He ﬁnds
Mulray on the same boat in some lake with some young woman. The young woman seem to
be his mistress (even though they show no signs of intimacy).
The photos get to the next day newspaper (the one that developed them is clearly re-
sponsible for that).
Seeing these photos, the real wife of Mulray, called ’Evelyn Mulray’, comes to Jake’s
oﬃce (while he tells a dirty joke. A very funny scene) and hand him a lawsuit. She says she
never hired him for anything. Gittis realizes the woman that came to him is a phony. He
manages to calm Evelyn that drops the lawsuit. But Gittis is by now furious he was doped,
and wants to investigate who is this mystery woman that tricked him.
Gittis goes to the reservoir, thinking Hollis may be there only to surprisingly ﬁnd Escobar,
his former police partner. We now realize that Jake worked ones (in Chinatown by the way)
with Escobar in the LAPD. Escobar is now the police chief. What is he doing in the reservoir?
This becomes apparent when Hollis Mulray body is recovered. He drowned for some reason.
Gittis suspects Mulray was murdered.
Breaking into the reservoir that night, Gittis nearly drowns in water suddenly cascading
down an aqueduct. Next Gittis is confronted by the water department security chief Claude
Mulvihill and a goon played by Roman Polanski. Jake asks Claude: ’Were did you ﬁnd the
midget (Polanski)’ ? Indeed Polanski is not that tall.
The goon (Polanski) cuts Gittes’s nose with a knife very badly for being snoopy and
inserting his nose where it does not belong.
Returning home, Gittis receives a call from the bogus Mrs. Mulray that hired him. Later
this woman is found dead. She tells him to pay attention to the obituaries in the news
Jake reveals that the maiden name of Evelyn was Cross. He ﬁnd that the old man that
debated heatedly with Mulray is Evelyn’s father Noah Cross. So it was her husband and her
father arguing. He ﬁnds out that that the lady Hollis was in the small boat with is called
Katheryn. At this point, it seems to him that the argument between Noah Cross and Hollis
is on Katheryn and on inﬁdelity.
Noah Cross, has lunch with Jake at a place called Albacore Club. This cite is owned
by Cross (Evelyn later reveals this information to Jake). More important to the plot, this
club also owns a home for the elderly called Mar Vista. Cross wants Jake to ﬁnd the young
’mistress’ (Katheryn) Mulray was in the lake with.
Gittis ﬁnds out that deceased persons in the arbitrary column, are listed as buying a
property in the valley. And after their death! He visits orange grove in San Fernando Valley.
The orange growers blame the city for stealing and poisoning their water and trying to push
them out of their land. Speciﬁcally they blame Hollis Mulray. Jake says that they are stupid,
and that Hollis is dead and swears at them. They knocked him down unconscious. Evelyn
comes with a car and rescues him.
Gittis discovers that the dead people that ’bought’ land in the valley after their death
all belong to the Mar Vista Inn. The place is owned by Cross. In fact a large part of the
valley was bought recently via false identities. Many of the buyers are still alive and live in
Mar Vista and do not know their names were used.
In any case, it turns out that the orange growers are right. The city creates an artiﬁcial
drought manipulating the water spill, trying to kick the orange growers out by buying their
land in ridiculously low prices (these lands without water are worthless). Mulray had ﬁgured
it out, so he was murdered.
Going back to the house Jake and Evelyn make love but then Evelyn’s gets a telephone
and she quickly leaves begging Jake to stay behind. Jake does not do that. He follows Evelyn
and catches her comforting Katherine. The so called mistress of her husband. Jake thinks
Evelyn is holding Katheryn against her will. Evelyn admits to Jake after a big confrontation,
that this young lady is her sister. It does not seem a big deal to him until Jake ﬁnd out that
there is no place that registers that Evelyn had a sister. Why did she lie to him?
It turns out that the coroner found salt water in Mulwray’s lungs, indicating that the
body was moved to the freshwater reservoir where it was found. Gittis returns to Evelyn’s
mansion, where he discovers a pair of men’s eyeglasses in her salt water garden pond. Gittis
confronts Evelyn and says she killed her husband. She denies.
They get into a heated debate over Kathrine. Jake says: ’dont tell me that she is your
sister as you have no sister.’ Evelyn does not know exactly what to say. She says ﬁrst: ’she
is my daughter’. Gittis slaps her hard and says, ’I want the truth!’. Then she says again ’She
is my sister’ just to get slapped by Jake again. For a long time she interchanges between
’She’s my sister’ and ’She is my daughter’. Each time when she says one of the above, Jake
slaps her. At the end she says: ’She is my sister and my daughter’. It turns out that her
father raped her at age 15. She adds that the eyeglasses are not Mulwray’s because they are
So now Jake understands that Evelyn and Katheryn are the victims. That the struggle
is whom of Evelyn or Cross will control Katherine. Gittis plans now for the two women to
ﬂee to Mexico. He arranges for Cross to meet him at Mulwray’s home to prove his guilt.
In a very dark corner on the house he asks Cross to read one of the obituaries. As its
dark, Cross takes of a pair of glasses and Jake sees it is identical to the ones he found in the
pond. Cross asks what is the meaning of all that? and Jake says: ’It means that you killed
Hollis right here, in the salty pool. And then you took him to the reservoir.’
The following somewhat surprising dialogue emerges now:
Faced with his crimes, Cross does not even blink, but just says: ’Hollis was always
fascinated by tidepools. You know what he used to say?... That’s where life begins. Sloughs,
tidepools. When he ﬁrst came out here, Hollis ﬁgured if you dumped water into the desert
sand and let it percolate down to the bedrock, it would stay there instead of evaporate the
way it does in most reservoirs. You only lose 20 percent instead of 70 or 80. He made this
Cross in complimenting the person he killed!
Gittis: That’s what you were going to do in the valley?
Cross: That’s what I am DOING. If the bond issue passes Tuesday, there’ll be eight million
dollars to build an aqueduct and reservoir. I’m doing it.
Gittis: Gonna be a lot of irate citizens when they ﬁnd out that they’re paying for water
that they’re not gonna get.
Jake means that the water is going to go to the valley and not to LA.
Cross: Oh, that’s all taken care of. You see, Mr. Gits. Either you bring the water to LA
or you bring LA to the water.
A remark. Till the end of the ﬁlm Cross cant get the name of Gittis right!
Gittis: How you gonna do that?
Cross: By incorporating the valley into the city. Simple as that.
He has it all planned. To the last detail. If the valley is part of LA then its OK to irrigate
the valley based on taxed of the LA people.
Cross makes Jake at gunpoint tell him where Evelyn and Kathryn are. They are in this
sinister place. ’Chinatown’.
They all meet in ’Chinatown’. Jake begs Escobar for 5 minutes of his time. He says
Cross is the culprit. He says: he is rich! He thinks he can get away with everything. Escobar
warns Jake and at the end, not only does he not listen to Jake, but he cuﬀs him to a car.
Noah Cross tells Katherine he is her ”grandfather.” Evelyn pulls a small pistol,and shoots
Cross in the arm. Then Evelyn tries to speed away with Katherine in the car even though
Jake tells her to let the police handle it.
When her car fades away, the police open ﬁre on the car, killing Evelyn; Cross holds
Katherine and takes her away. Gittis is so angry he wants to hit Escobar. He is so furious.
Gittes’s associates hold him back from attacking Escobar. One of them urges, ”Forget it,
Jake. it’s Chinatown.”
1.2 Some initial remarks
Chinatown has several layers. It may appear to be a ’simple’ detective story. Its not.
This movie runs wide, deals with many subjects, as well as deep in some of them. It is
related to the history of Hollywood and the history of cinema. And to the history of Los
Angeles. Its related to the political situation and the the then current events in America
(the movie was done in 1974). It also a philosophical movie of the branch in philosophy
called ’fatalistic philosophy’. This give the movie a quality that remind one of the Greek
tragedies. Another philosophical subject treated in the movie is morality (in a rather brave
and rare way, incomparable to most movies I know).
One of the reasons this movie succeeds in encapsulating so many diﬀerent subjects, is
its script by Robert Town. The script puts a strong emphasis on details. Just remember
the scene where Jake puts watches under the car to ﬁnd out the exact time Mulray left the
water site. Or the way that Jake cuts the paper page while coughing, hiding the noise.
To make an interesting detective story, you need constant surprises and diﬃculties. The
detective is in a quest for the truth. The ﬁrst surprise in a long list is Mulray getting killed,
the glasses Jake ﬁnds, the sister-daugther of Eveylin, Escobar and his fear of Cross, The
dead people buying property, the bogus miss cross. Diﬃculties like his nose being sliced.
The above is an overlook explanation. It leaves out many little details that can be easily
ignored; At least at ﬁrst viewing. But these unimportant details gather together. They
portray a bleak picture. A picture that is the inﬂuence of the director. Not Robert Town
the script writer, who wanted a more up bit movie. In fact, Roman Polanski came as far as
to changing the ﬁlms end, to its present form. Remember that this ﬁlm was done just few
years after Sharon Tate the ex-wife of Polanski was sliced by the Manson gang.
1.3 Jake as a cool, guy: the black humor
The black humor in ’Chinatown’ is not as in the Kubrick movies in which it is designed as
an insult for humanity and is very angry. These jokes are designed to show that Jake is a
There is a very funny scene in which Evelyn stands behind his back and he tells a dirty
joke. He is not aware that she is there. For me not the joke is funny, but the situation is.
And what is important is that the joke related to China.
Jake: So there’s this guy is tired of screwin’ his wife... So his friend says to him, ”Hey,
why don’t you do it like the Chinese do?” So he says, ”How do the Chinese do it?” And the
guy says, ”Well, the Chinese, ﬁrst they screw a little bit, then they stop, then they go and
read a little Confucius, come back, screw a little bit more, then they stop again, go and they
screw a little bit... then they go back and they screw a little bit more and then they go out
and they contemplate the moon or something like that. Makes it more exciting.” So now,
the guy goes home and he starts screwin’ his own wife, see. So he screws her for a little bit
and then he stops, and he goes out of the room and reads Life Magazine. Then he goes back
in, he starts screwin’ again. He says, ”Excuse me for a minute, honey.” He goes out and he
smokes a cigarette. Now his wife is gettin’ sore as hell. He comes back in the room, he starts
screwin’ again. He gets up to start to leave again to go look at the moon. She looks at him
and says, ”Hey, whats the matter with ya. You’re screwin’ just like a Chinaman!”
In a lunch between Cross and Jake they serve the ﬁsh with the head.
Noah Cross: I hope you don’t mind. I believe they should be served with the head. Jake
Gittes: Fine... long as you don’t serve the chicken that way.
A meeting between Gittis and some goon:
Jake Gittes: Mulvihill! What are you doing here? Mulvihill: They shut my water oﬀ.
What’s it to you? Jake Gittes: How’d you ﬁnd out about it? You don’t drink it; you don’t
take a bath in it... They wrote you a letter. But then you have to be able to read.
Jake complaining to Evelyn:
But, Mrs. Mulwray, I goddamn near lost my nose. And I like it. I like breathing through
it. And I still think you’re hiding something.
Escobar and Jake square oﬀ again:
Lt. Escobar: Isn’t that your phone number? Jake Gittes: Is it? I forget. I don’t call
myself that often.
A ﬁght between Jake and a policeman that tries to make fun of him (and a very dirty
Loach (the policeman): What happened to your nose, Gittes? Somebody slammed a
bedroom window on it? Jake Gittes: Nope. Your wife got excited. She crossed her legs a
little too quick. You understand what I mean, pal?
Gittis jokes again with Evelyn:
Evelyn Mulwray: Hollis seems to think you’re an innocent man. Jake Gittes: Well, I’ve
been accused of a lot of things before, Mrs. Mulwray, but never that.
Jake and some secretary speaking. The nose again and a joke again:
Yelburton: My goodness, what happened to your nose? Jake Gittes: I cut myself shaving.
Yelburton: You ought to be more careful. That must really hurt. Jake Gittes: Only when I
ll this joke have an intension oposite to the black jokes of Kubrick. They are intent on
making Jake look cool.
2 Roman Polanski
2.1 Polanski the auther
Roman Polanski may give evidence to the infamous (and unfair) theory of the French critics
in the ﬁfties, the theory of the ’auther’. In short, this theory says that the director is the
sole ’Author’. of the ﬁlm. A good director (not the silly commercial ones, but the artists) is
a ﬁlm “composer” that borrows subjects, from his inner self. Every ﬁlm is personal with the
’authers’. An ’auther’ can treat diﬀerence subjects, but will center along common motives,
related to the persona of the director-auther. This theory is somewhat unfair (or perhaps
very unfair) to the script writer especially, but also to all the rest of the crew.
Polanski did not write the script for ’Chinatown’ but this is the exception. In most ﬁlm
he wrote or co-wrote the script.
Polanski shares the following with very few directors in the history of cinema. He knows
all aspects of cinema language perfectly (cinema language is camera movement, editing
camera angles and huge many more things). The reason that he knows for example a lot on
photography of ﬁlms and editing and everything else is that he is a control freak (the same
can be said on Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Orson Wells). The fact that he most times write his
own scripts reminds of Fellini (that co-authored his scripts) or Bergman, that wrote all his
scripts alone and wrote the dialogues (writing dialogues was not always done by, say, Fellini.
Its a separate matter).
Thus ’Chinatown’ is a great exception as Robert Town wrote the script. But Polanski
changed the script of Chinatown quite a bit (especially the ending). He has a way of directing
of a controls freak that observes all the details to the last one and does not in essence count
on other people. As there is no aspect of cinema he is not an expert in the above is possible.
His fear is that the ’others’ that work on the ﬁlm will destroy it. Take what Judy Foster
(that worked an his last ﬁlm that was not shown yet) said: ”He has a very, very deﬁnitive
style about how he likes it done. He decides everything. He decided every lens. Every prop.
Everything. It’s all him. Another actor in this move Kate Winslet adds that ”Roman is one
of the most extraordinary men I’ve ever met. The guy is 77 years old. He has an eﬀervescent
quality to him. He’s very joyful about his work, which is infectious. He likes to have a small
crew, to the point that, when I walked on the set, my thought was, ’My God, this is it?’
These small crew is basically the same for all his ﬁlms since he left the USA. The above
are all marks of a great auther.
I am not sure that Capra, Hawks, Curtis and Ford were authers. They did not write the
script, nor did they cut their own ﬁlms And did not do many other things that the directors
above did. Its not their fault. At the time the studio was partitioned into departments.
Editing is done by someone. Script by someone else. Directing by another person. Dialogues
by yet another person and so on.
Andrew Saris said that they were authers as they shot the ﬁlms in a way that left only
one usable shots each time. They controlled the editing indirectly, he said. They have a
vision as well he said (Capra and Hawks and Ford certainly did).
Still to call them authers would be too much. However, there is no doubt with respect
to Polanski. There are not many authers in cinema, but he is one of them.
2.2 The life of Polanski
Polanski is a Jew, and he experienced the Holaucost as a child, an event that may account
for his pessimistic beliefs. In the world of Polanski, the devil is always more vivid than god,
as is best expressed in his masterpeace: “Rosemary’s baby”. His ﬁrst ﬁlm, masterpiece was
called ’Knife in the water’ and dealt with only 3 characters that ﬁght among them self in a
secluded place. A top notch character study in a Kafka sort of situation. This will return in
’Cul DE-Sac’ and in ’Death and the Maiden’. But he has also ﬁlms with many characters.
His ﬁrst ﬁlm ’Knife in the Water’ was done in Poland (and was nominated to the best
foreign ﬁlm in the Oscars. But he was unfortunate: the much larger masterpiece 81/2 by
Fellini was also nominated and of course won). In fact his initial fame was due to a short
ﬁlm he directed. The truly brilliant short ﬁlm ’Two Men and a Wardrobe’.
Poland was communist so Polanski moved to England in which he did 3 ﬁlms, the mas-
terpiece ’Repulsion’ being the ﬁrst.
Polanski moved to the USA in 1968. He showed again his mastery by directing the
amazing masterpiece ’Rosemarie’s baby’ that won several awards.
His life was tragic (he is still alive when I write these lines). In 1969, Polanski’s wife,
Sharon Tate (that appeared in his black comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers) was murdered
while staying at Polanski’s Benedict Canyon home above Los Angeles. The members of the
Manson Family (but Manson himself was not there!) were the killers.
His next American ﬁlm was this true masterpiece ’Chinatown’. Later in France he di-
rected a third ﬁlm ’The tenant’ that was a part of a ’Close apartments trilogy” with Repulsion
and ’Rosemarie’s baby’.
In 1977, Polanski was arrested for the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl. Her mother sent
her to his home. She was 13 and he had sex with her (thinking to be fair to him that she
is much older). The girl did not say no but still its a statutory rape. Her mother wanted
’something’ to happen between them (maybe not sex...) with the hope that her daughter
will become a movie star. Why else leave such a young girls with a notorious womanizer as
Polanski? Polanski pleaded guilty to statutory rape but ﬂed the USA to London (with a
false passport!). He later established France as his home. Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize
winner and former President of Poland, argued that the director ”should be forgiven this one
sin. His friends said that going to jail would mean experiencing the holocaust for a second
time, for him.
On the other hand, the victim of this statutory rape long ago forgave him, and requested
to let him come back to the USA unharmed, and so did his prosecutor. The judge misused
his position and turned the trial into a public relation freak show, This judge violated the
law many times.
This does not matter as in the USA they take laws seriously. When he won the Oscar
for ’The Pianist’, Harrison Ford (that collaborated with Polanski in the brilliant thriller:
’Frantic’) received the Oscar for Polanski and congratulated him. Polanski was not pardoned
even though he won the Oscar as best director (for the ﬁrst time in his life).
After he ﬂee the USA, he made many movies but non even close to the level of his 4
great masterpieces: ’Knife in the Water’, ’Rosemarie’s Baby’, ’Chinatown’ and ’The tenant’
(possibly ’Repulsion as well’
No more great ﬁlms probably because of the energy and trauma this incident caused him.
What a pity. Those who lost most from this incident are we. He could have made many
He was arrested not long ago in Sweeserland but released and not extradited to the USA.
I know that Polanski is a bad person. No doubt. But this should not avoid us from
treating his ﬁlms honestly.
3 Chinatown: some questions
Let us see how indirectly the ﬁlm takes a stand on various issues. Many questions arise:
1. First, the place the ﬁlm occurs, and the time: why Loss Angeles?
2. Why does the ﬁlm take place in the thirties of the previous millennium?
3. Why is this talk on water all the time? Even Jake says at one point: ’water again’.
4. Why was John Houston chosen for this part?
5. Why and what for was the name ’Chinatown’ chosen for the ﬁlm?
6. Why does Jake tells this story about a girl he wanted to save and only brought her to
her downfall in his days as policeman in Chinatown?
7. What is is this issue with the defect Evelyn has in her eye?
8. What does the line ’As little as possible’ that is said twice means?
9. Why is it said twice?
10. A large amount of the actors (like the gardener) come from the far east, from, China
it seems.. Why? Recall that even the joke that Jake tells refers to the Chinese-torture
way of making love...
11. Why does the ﬁlm end like that?
12. What are the meaning of the these personal names given to the characters?
13. Why are the woman in this ﬁlm so coy and secret or betraying?
14. Why is the nose of the detective sliced?
15. Are there totally ’good’ character in the ﬁlm? Are there ’Totally bad’ ones?
16. What inﬂuence does the year the ﬁlm was made in has on the movie (1974)?
17. Put the ﬁlm in context of cinema history and other detective movies. Are there hidden
18. Why so many things repeat (Evelyn saves Jake twice, the gardener says, ’bad fol the
glass’ and then ’Salti Watel, bad for the glass’ and there are so many more repetitions
I will stop here but there are many details that need a a very careful look at the ﬁlm
to understand. You need to know the history of cinema and much more. Analyzing ﬁlms
is hard. We will answer the questions. Beyond the obvious meanings, hidden meanings are
4 The ﬁlm noir
4.1 What is a ﬁlm noir?
Film noir was actually a name given by the French Critics, Andre Basin, Truﬀaut, Goddard,
Chabrol, among others. A look on cinema with historic perspective only began at the end of
ﬁfties, start of sixties. Perhaps what made this retrospective look possible, is that during the
war, American ﬁlm were prohibited in France. So, many American ﬁlms were shown together
in bunches after the war. This gave better possibility to evaluate these ﬁlms together. And
the French critics had sessions: a day of westerns, time where they discovered the man they
decided is the “Best” westerns director, John Ford (an opinion probably valid even today).
A day of Musicals, etc. The Americans ﬁlm industry in the USA was all divided according
to genre, with a commercial and industrial point of view. The mood was very escapist: you
come to cinema to forget, not to think. You come to see “The purple rose of Cairo”. Some
exotic and silly ﬁlm. The goal is to forget its time of great depression (’Chinatown’ takes
place in the thirties in the middle of the great depression after the market collapse in 1929).
Films are designed to make money, not to change the political situation. If a “formula”
succeeds, we will make more ﬁlms of this sort. So genre were born: War ﬁlms, Gangster
ﬁlms. The thirties were the times when the gangster ﬁlm genre arose, “The little Caesar”,
“Scarface” among others. Many musical movies, comedies which were divided to sub-genre,
and so on.
In all these escapist ﬁlms, its hard to believe that darker ﬁlms have been made, and one
would have to ask, why make darker ﬁlms at all if you want to make money only? A bunch
of diﬀerent ﬁlms caught the eye of the French critics. These ﬁlms treated the “back-yard” of
the American dream. Most importantly, the characters in these ﬁlms did not act for clean
“moral” reasons, but strictly in the opposite way. It portrayed a dark, dangerous world,
where things are not as they appear, and the characters always hide something. Those were
ﬁlms in black and white, but with more black than white as they took place mostly in the
night. The name ﬁlm noir, black ﬁlm, seems called for.
4.2 Orson Wells and the New direction style
And there was the issue of the direction style. Important ﬁlm noirs like “Out of the past”
for example, played a lot with light. Actors are often lit in strange ways, making their
faces look unreal. Director used methods similar to the ones used in German Cinema in its
early days (the nineteen twenties of the previous century ). This is the so called German
“expressionism” ﬁlms who were based on lighting. Expressing moods by the use of light,
expressive settings, and so on. In “The cabinet of Dr Caligari” the scenery is fake and in
twisted angels, that enhanced the fear induced by this brilliant movie. In “M” (from 1930)
a talking ﬁlm by Fritz Lang a shadow covering the ﬁrst girl victim (played by the Israeli
actress Hannah Maron) is the way the killer is ﬁrst introduced to us. And in shadow is also
the ﬁrst time we see the vampire in Nusperatou (a silent ﬁlm) by Murnau. See similar use
of light and shadows in the ultimate masterpiece of the silent era: ’Sunrise’ by Murnau.
Citizen Kane, is the ﬁlm that ﬁlm noirs have the most debt too. Those German tech-
niques were brought to America by Orson Wells. An example: see how in “Citizen Kane”
Charles Foster Kane is completely in the dark when signing his “declaration of principals”.
A promise he will not keep. The inﬂuence of this crucial ﬁlm, and the next one Wells did, the
“Magniﬁcence of the Amberssons”, is evident in ﬁlm noirs. These two brave ﬁlms introduced
expressionistic directing (non neutral) into American cinema.
If you want to check the way the classic “usual” American ﬁlms back then, the non ﬁlm-
noirs, that is, lets go no further than ’Casablanca’. In this legendary ﬁlm, by Michel Curtis,
the only ’point of view shot’ in the all ﬁlm, meaning a point where we see the scene from
the point of view of Richard Blaine (Humphrey Bogart the hero of “Casablanca”) is when
he reads the letter left to him by Elsa in the train station in Paris with all that rain. And
not for no reason was this the only point of view shot in the whole ﬁlm: this is the moment
that made Richard Blane the bitter angry, hostile, ’I care only after myself’, kind of chap he
appears to be at the beginning of the ﬁlm. Its the turning moment of “Casablanca”. All the
rest of the shots, in Casablanca, all of them! were shot from a neutral point of view. Like an
outsider watching the occurrence of the ﬁlm and from a neutral point of view. This was true
back then in all mainstream Hollywood cinema. In ﬁlms by Curtis or Hacks, the director
has to be unseen. Should not remind the viewers its a ﬁlm. They come to forget, after all.
Be as objective as you can with your camera. When you cut, do it so it will be less felt
(perhaps when the camera shows some dark object. Such cuts prevail in the famous movie
’The Graduate’. Also the use of focus as done by Wells is used there a lot). No tricks, no
special angels. Nothing that can interfere with the audience being caught “inside the story”.
In ﬁlm noirs, the directing was very expressionistic, based very much on the use of light
and shadows. Anyway, ﬁlm noirs took place mostly at night, which added to the darker look
of the ﬁlm. The lighting used was scarce. In noirs, people for example could be situated in
high settings to make them look small like near a high staircase. Camera angels reﬂected the
point of view of diﬀerent people. Or like in “Kiss me deadly”, many shots can be through
some obstacles in the front of the camera. Makes you feel uneasy. Bothers you from trying
to capture what is going on.
4.3 The code
The ﬁlm noirs of the thirties and the forties were a bit more daring of the main stream
Hollywood movies. They perhaps could aﬀord to be. This is as they were not taken so
seriously. The ﬁlm noirs were regarded ’B-movies’ and were usually shown as the ﬁrst low-
budget feature, before the main, ’better’ ﬁlm with Garry Cooper, or Greta Garbo.... Today
perhaps we view this diﬀerently.
The producers of these ﬁlms may have felt as belonging to the backyard of America
themselves. Most of the producers of noirs were Jewish. And Jews were a small and scared
minority in America at the time. The powerful Car manufacturer Ford, that some say Citizen
Kane is also partially based on his persona, was a raving Anti-Semitic. He owned many news
papers that spread vile anti Semitic views. Many places said back then: No Jews allowed.
Many of the script writers were communist. A political opinion considered vile in America
even today. In fact the thirties and forties were very “right wing” times in America. In 1929
the stock market has collapsed. This resulted in a very diﬃcult recession. Randolph Hears,
lead an anti communist crusade against Stalin, and use to falsify pictures of Stalin in his
newspapers. He met with Hitler whom he strongly sported in 1934 and was greeted as a
The fear from communism made the Americans lean right. And the fear and anger from
what the Japanese did, made it worse. In fact the Japanese citizens where forced to move
to camps with hard conditions even though they were citizens.
Imagine being a Jew in this area when they certainly talked on real and non real Ameri-
cans, hated minorities and persecuted some of them. The producers, while having control of
the studies and being Jews, tried to hide as much as they could they heritage. They were in
fear. The future looked uncertain. Dangerous. Film noir are the very modest way in which
these producers expressed some of their fears.
Could Film noirs take upon some controversial issues. Like the atrocities that are going
on in Europe?
This was not the case even with the little importance these ﬁlms got. Even the ﬁlm noirs
did not discuss issues of controversy like race or color or religion. The Holocaust? No way.
Why did the movie have to keep quiet? Not only for commercial reasons namely fear of
alienating viewers. The producers were under an unwritten “morality law” called the “Hays
Will H. Hays, served as the head of the newly-formed Motion Pictures Producers and
Distributors of America (MPPDA) Hollywood censor board. He controlled what could be
shown. This code (that the neo Nazi Ayn Rand helped to write) forbid reference to matters
in dispute, like the Jewish Holocaust, religious matters, sexual matters, racial matters, con-
troversial matters. If the ﬁlm would violate those, Hays would ban and forbid the showing of
the ﬁlm. In the ﬁfties many directors and actors were boycott for suspicion of being commu-
nists. It took a harsh ﬁght for Selznick, as powerful as he was, to let Gable say “Frankly my
dear, I dont give a dam” in the end of “Gone with the wind”. The word “Dam” of course was
the problematic one. You could not mention even the word “pregnant”. You could not hear
the sound of toilet water ﬂashing(!). Especially strong and strange where the restrictions on
sex: For example, even if you show the bedroom of a married couple, you must show two
beds(!). If a couple kiss on the bed, then the guy must have at least one leg touching the
ﬂoor.... I kid you not. This lasted until the end of the ﬁfties. The reasons (excuses more
likely) for the code were many, but among them was the case of Roscoe Conkling ”Fatty”
Arbuckle. He actually (before Laurel and Hardy) was a pair with Buster Keaton known as
“Fatty and Buster”, the original fat and skinny funny boys of all of comedy whom today,
quite unfairly, hardly anyone (that is not a cinema critic) knows. In 1921 Arbuckle threw a
party during Labor day weekend. Bit player Virginia Rappe became very ill and died days
later. A scandal broke. Arbuckle was accused rape and manslaughter. The trial was very
public. This added to the mood of “what are they doing there in decadent Hollywood?”
Newspapers had been ﬁlled with stories of alleged Hollywood orgies and sexual perversion
(even some invented murders). Never mind that Arbuckle was later acquitted.
The famous ﬁlm “Scarface” that was “in your face” ﬁlm against the government (started
with a written accusation of the government(!)) hinted on incest(!)), created havoc and also
helped make the creation of the code. But there were many reasons. In those times the
Americans were truly puritans. It seems that the code suited popular demand.
How do you overcome the code? The directors and Jewish producers had to IMPLY the
political relation of the ﬁlm, not say it directly. Many noirs were taken as a parable for
a reaction on political issues. For example, a masterful noir, “Kiss me deadly” by Robert
Aldrich Robert treats the fear of the bomb without mentioning the term “atomic bomb”
throughout the ﬁlm.
And the writers/directors had to imply anything related to sex. How do you hint on sex
without showing it? Many times, the male smokes and lights the woman a cigarette, and
then they smoke together... See Bogart lighting a cigar to Bacall in the classic noir “To have
or have not”, as an example.
4.4 Was it a genre?
What was the ﬁlm noir? Not a genre, according to the critics. That may be a bit of a reﬁned
distinction for me but I understand the reasons. Film noirs were held together by some dark
feeling they conveyed, by some mood they held. Many times the mood you got in ﬁlm noirs
was of darkness, conspiracy, paranoia. Why has this happen? One of the reasons was that
many of these ﬁlms were post war ﬁlms. The soldiers that came back from the war were
so disillusioned after seeing so many atrocities. And there was fear all over. Fear of “the
bomb”. Fear of communism. In fact there was a series of noir that treated in particular
this fear (strange with many script writers actually being communists themselves). Fear of
Even if it does not deserve the name “genre” many things were common to most noirs.
The noirs are deﬁnitely city ﬁlms. Like Chinatown is with Loss Angeles and like Sun Fran-
cisco that was the city of many others. For example, the heros of “Out in the past” Jeﬀ
Bailey (Mitchum) and the sinister Kathie Moﬀat (Greer) hide in San Francisco from the
gangster Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas).
The city in ﬁlm noirs is like a maze with the little people that can easily get lost there.
Casinos like in the classic “Gilda”. Many bars and night clubs. A lot of doors open and
close. A lot of trains and electrical appliances. A lot of cigarette smoke and ceiling fans. A
lot of “detective hats”.
4.5 The private detective:
In fact, many of these ﬁlms had their main character the “private eye”. This is the private
detective. He is an outsider, perhaps an ex-policeman. Alway an heterosexual and as a
result, attracted by the sinister female. He knows the TRUE meaning of justice, more than
the police and the establishment in general which is often corrupted. Remember how Evelyn
says about her father Noah Cross: He owns the police!
In fact, this corrupt world will emerge to the clear, as a result of the investigation. And
the detective is not a sucker: if someone fools him, he will avenge. This is for example
portrayed in the the (neo-)noir “Night moves” done by Arthur Penn. The detective ( Gene
Gene Hackman) is asked to bring back home a run-away girl. When he does so, it turns
out that he only got the girl killed. But he is no sucker, he will continue the investigation
until the ugly truth comes out, never minding the fact that he stands to get nothing by this.
Gittis does the same! And he only looses in the process. The fact that a detective can not
be seen as a sucker is explicitly stated in Chinatown: “I am not the one who is supposed to
be caught with his pants down....”. This moral superiority makes the detective a lonely guy.
“Aren’t we all lonely?” says/asks Gittis in the ﬁlm....
4.6 Pulp ﬁction:
In the thirties, there were two, now classic, book writers: Chandler, the inventor of Philip
Marlowe, and Dashiel Hammet, the inventor of Sam Spade. These books, were not highly
regarded, and were given at times every week in newspapers as a continued story. The book
themselves, were written in a very cheap paper, that at times was destroyed before you could
read the book. “Pulp ﬁction”, as Tarantino puts it.
Consider for example two classic ﬁlms based on these characters: “The Maltese Falcon”
on Sam Spade, and “The Big Sleep” on Philip Marlowe. The Maltese falcon is considered
perhaps to be the ﬁrst ﬁlm noir ever from 1941. The detective in both these ﬁlms was
portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, as in many other ﬁlm noirs. This gave another uniﬁed look
to this detective character.
4.7 The Femme fatal
The ’Femme fatal’ (again, a name coined by the French critics) is the dangerous woman that
is not to be trusted. This woman will many times bring the downfall of the honest detective.
The best example perhaps, of one of the most corrupt Femme fatal is in the great noir ’Out
of the past’. Its a great tragedy for Jeﬀ Bailey (Mitchum) to fall in love with Kathie Moﬀat
(Jane Greer). Moﬀat turns out to be a liar and a murdered and a thief. As in the tradition
of the noirs, Baily was acting at the time as a private detective hired by Whit Sterling (Kirk
Douglas playing a gangster!) to return 40000 dollars stalled from him by Moﬀat. At the
end Moﬀat shoots Bailey and the police (called by Bailey) ﬁnishes the job and kills them
both, in a tragic ending. Indeed, the ﬁlm noir sadly helped a lot in increasing the devil-like
image of a woman that is too independent, sexually. During the second world war, the men
went to war, and the woman took over jobs that were traditionally male jobs for example in
industrial factories. Even married woman did not stay home as some Americans back then
thought they should in normal times.
This situation increased the fear from woman taking over, and this fear is well reﬂected
in the ﬁlm noirs. A classic example: “Double indemnity”. The Fame fatal portrayed by
Barbara Stanwyck seduces the so called honest man, to kill her husband by throwing him
from a train, a sure way to get doubled the normal insurance money (Double indemnity,
that is). In this way she brings his downfall. An honest policeman, unravels this plot. The
detective is portrayed by the legendary Edgar J. Robinson.
One of the most terrible and cruel depiction of a femme fatal is in ’Sunset Boulevard’ with
Norma Desmond. Maybe this ﬁlm could be called ’the most cruel ﬁlm noir ever created’.
This is a ﬁlm by Billy Wilder from 1950 and is also one of the best noirs. It stars William
Holden as a low-life screenwriter Joe Gillis, and Gloria Swanson (that was a star in the days
of silent ﬁlms and lost her status when ﬁlms started talking because of the way she talked)
as Norma Desmond. Cruelly enough, Gloria Swanson plays HERSELF in the movie or more
precisely, a character which is just like her. A faded movie star that was once famous. She
draws Gillis into her fantasy world. She is sure she is still a star and will make a comeback
one day. Not long from now. This is of course an empty fantasy of a crazy lady. Erich von
Stroheim, plays her chauﬀeur, and also basically plays himself(!). This actor Von Stroheim
was a once bright Director in real life. His masterpiece is considered to be the ﬁlm ’Greed’.
His ﬁlms were extremely realistic which was new at the time. His star faded because he
wanted too big budgets. The ﬁlm that may have ruined his career for good is an unﬁnished
ﬁlm called “Princess Kelly” STARRING Gloria Swanson. The real Gloria Swanson real
actor that plays Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Critics say that “Princess Kelly”
was potential masterpeace. Unluckily it was given up due to lack of budget.
In the cruelest and most ironic of all scenes in this brilliant ’Sunset Boulevard’ ﬁlm,
Wilder plays a very dirty trick. Norma Desmond the character seats with Joe Gillis the
character, Max von Mayerlinga (the cruel name given to Erich von Stroheim in the ﬁlm,
that sounds quite like his real name) and the 3 watch the TRUE ﬁlm “Prince Kelly” that
was done in actual life and ruined Erich Von Stroheim and did nothing to help the career
of Gloria Swanson. Adding to the cruelty are appearances of director Cecil B. De-Mille and
famous gossip columnist Hedda Hopper play themselves in the ﬁlm, and the ﬁlm includes
cameo appearances by leading silent ﬁlm ﬁgures Buster Keaton, H. B. Warner and Anna Q.
Nilsson. A requiem to the ﬁlms that are no more: the silent ﬁlms.
Norma Desmond is a walking example of most bad attributes associated with a noir
woman. Femme fatal woman are absorbed by themselves. Are selﬁsh and ruthless. They
often look at at the mirror. Norma Desmond has many portraits of herself throughout her
These “satanic” woman are never mothers. They are the opposite of the mother Marion
from “Shane”. They do not have families and perhaps destroy families. In fact, in noirs
there are almost never any children. At the end of “Sunset Boulevard”, Norma Desmond
shoots Gillis in the back..... A huge innovation was brought by this ﬁlm: dead Gillis TELLS
THE STORY (even though he is dead).
4.8 The dark mirror:
Actually, the issue of mirror is remarkably common in ﬁlm noirs. If I will write on Vertigo, I
may elaborate more on the relation of this to Lacan (the psychologist) and his famous mirror
stage of babies.
Why do the noir ladies look at the mirror all the time? Woman that look at the mirror
are “two face”, self absorbed, ignore men. Like Phyllis Dietrichson in Double indemnity.
And worse: by looking only on themselves and not on the man, they control their own
sexuality. Women that want sex (obviously if they are not married!) were surely depict as
evil in main stream American cinema back then. And they are luring to even honest men.
See the perhaps best depiction of the mirror motive in the brilliant ﬁlm noir “The lady from
Shanghai” by the genius Orson Wells. In the ﬁnal scene of the ﬁlm, Elsa Bannister is in a
room full of mirrors. Her many faces appear; A femme fatal is at least double faced. Then
all the mirrors break from gun shots (this scene was imitates many times).
And these motives of femme fatal continued in modern Neo-noirs namely, ﬁlm noirs that
are shot in colors. An interesting modern variation of this fame fatal issue is the ﬁlm “Body
heat” with devious Kathleen Turner implicating William heart. Another well known example
is the ﬁlm “Basic instinct” and also when taken to an extreme: “Fatal attraction”.
Some people regard the last ﬁlm noir to be “A touch of evil” by Orson Wells, 1956. The
ﬁlm noir disappeared with the improvement of the economy, and the ending of the war’s
inﬂuence. The Film noir is better suited in harsh times, when the right wing is very strong
(even the anti communist ﬁlms could have been perhaps made so that the dominating right
wing will be satisﬁed). Film noirs are more called for in times of conspiracy theories and
From then, the ﬁlm noir is revived in a modern way from time to time. Arthur Penn
of ‘Night moves” is one of the two big Modernists of the sixties and seventies. Modernists
directors revived, but mostly, revised, the genre. The other great modernists director of
the sixties is Robert Altman. In his ﬁlm “The long Goodbye” (1983) he brings back Philip
Marlowe. But modernists directors, do not simply follow the old Genre. They renew them,
and change them Indeed, in ’The Long Goodbye’ we ﬁnd that Marlowe is not the hero we
knew and loved: he is a low-life looser, that mumbles a lot, lives in a bad neighborhood,
and is always on the left foot. All this feeling of distorted world is enhanced in “The long
goodbye” by a wonderful direction. Especially intentionally “wrong” camera movements (so
that the camera does not show the main event taking place) And also, in ’The long goodbye’
Marlowe is deceived and is treated as a fool and is used by is longtime friend Terry Lennox
The end of ’The long goodbye’ is an Homage to the famous (and again cruel) classic
noir: “The third man”. Both ﬁlms the Third man and ’The long goodbye’ treat the issue of
ﬁdelity and betrayal. Both of them have a cat. In “The long goodbye” the cat disappears
at the beginning after being betrayed by Marlowe. Marlowe tried to give him a low-quality
food hidden inside a can of the good food. The Cat sniﬀs once and walks away in disdain.
Never to appear again! But the ﬁlm has after that a huge quantity of dogs! In the ’Third
man’, perhaps the role of his life of Orson Wells, the cat helps Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten)
discover that the story that his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) was killed does not hold
water. In fact he reveals that a “third man” was helping to carry the body of ’Harry Lime’
across the street (not two as he was told before. The third was Lime himself: The third
man). Before he decides to leave Vienna Martins catches across the darkened square, a man
watching from a dark doorway. A lighted window illuminates the man’s face brieﬂy. It is
Harry Lime. His cat revealed him by going after him.
The end of “The long goodbye” and of “The third man” is identical: both Holly and
Marlowe cruelly shoot their betraying best friends and then walk by some boulevard with a
women’s car passing them by, she talking to them and they ignore here.
4.10 Chinatown as a neo-noir
So Chinatown is a neo-noir. Is this possible to do in a ﬁlm in colors that would be a ﬁlm
noir? Chinatown manages to convey the dark look of the ﬁlm noir at least as good if not
better than those old noir ﬁlms. You do it with almost always showing dark brown black or
dark blue colors. Usually colors are divided into warm (strong red strong yellow) and cold,
like brown, pale gray, black and even very dark blue. Chinatown is ﬁlled almost only with
cold colors. It feels like the colors have been drained of their power and it almost imitate a
black and white ﬁlm. This is how you achieve a nice parallel to the ﬁlm noir lighting.
Polanski uses many other means to pass through the distorted feeling the ﬁlm want
to convey. The mood is enhanced in Chinatown by other means like subdued acting (by
Nicholson) and a melancholy trumpet. Many ’stylized’ shots are present in Chinatown as
if inﬂuenced by ’Citizen Kane’. Marlowe face half dark and half lighted (to show that he
has good side and bad side, see later). The image of Mulray and Katherine reﬂected in the
stills camera held by Gittis, a “Citizen Kane” like trick. The most stylized shot is before the
ﬁnal confrontation between Gittis and Cross. Gittis is outside the frame of the ﬁlm. But
we know he is present. He smokes a cigarette as in so many of the other noir ﬁlm. This
cigarette issue is almost a mark of the ﬁlm nor. The smoke does enter the frame. So we
know Jake is standing there. When Cross enters the house we see him inside the door frame
(Wells was ’mister frames’) and in deep focus. Almost a tribute to Wells. The things Wells
liked: Frames, deep focus, stylish shots. Polanski also uses his old tricks. Like in ’Knife in
the water’ for a remarkable earlier example. The detective is mostly ﬁlmed in the corners
of the frame, with angels that do not allow him to be seen at his best. This is a mark of
Polanski done also in ’Rosemarie’s Baby’. And he walks around half a ﬁlm with an ugly and
ridiculous bandage on his nose. Nicholson perhaps gives the performance of his lifetime and
does not shame the great actors of the past like Bogart.
Chinatown is situated in the thirties as in the old pulp ﬁction books. Polanski treats the
period and the genre very seriously. The ﬁlm could easily been done in the thirties (except
for the colors!). The classic ﬁlm noirs were reﬂected in Polanski’s choices for actors. The
reason that John Houston was chosen to portray the bad guy in Chinatown may have been
that Houston directed “The Maltese Falcon”. It was his ﬁrst ﬁlm, and this closes the line
between these two ﬁlm noir movies, some say, the two best ﬁlm noir movies.
Many attributes of the old noirs are common to Chinatown. For example the detective
with his natural sense of justice. And there is a variation on the fame fatal: Evelyn (Fay
Dunaway) who is both harmful and a victim, and her daughter, Katherine. As in the
tradition of the ﬁlm noir, nothing is as it seams, the fame fatal always hides something and
the terrible truth is revealed by the end and this truth includes incest, in this case. Consider
also another deceiving woman: the woman of Curly at the starting scene, that cheats with
another man. Later we see that the wife of Curly suﬀered her husbands revenge.
In the modernistic ﬁlm-noir the hero is at times less “cool”, more vulnerable, than the
classic hero. Chinatown is wider in context and concerns more issues and is much more
personal, deeper, and reﬂects the world of Roman Polanski; The directors world is very
visible. The sliced nose of the detective is a symbol of guilty conscience which is justiﬁed
(see later) and also a mark of Cane for a person that is too snoopy. Why is he snoopy?
Redemption. He wants redemption for his actions in the past. For his earlier failure when
trying to save a girl when he was working as a detective in Chinatown, only getting her
killed. The sliced nose is thus like a mark of Cane. A symbol of guilt. Jake is not cool and
detached like in the old noirs. In this modernistic ﬁlm noir we see that the detective is much
more involved and personally aﬀected than, say, Bogart... Bogart’s nose was never sliced....
Chinatown was made in 1974. Two events dominated the early seventies in America:
1. The eﬀects of the Vietnam war that ended in 1973 in practice, and formally ended in
2. The Watergate aﬀair.
In both these events, the main problem where: political lies. This always existed by
deﬁnition (politics is equivalent to lying but people have to be grown ups to accept that),
but this time the lied were revealed. The war started based on a lie. In August 1964 the
president L.B Johnson falsely claimed that North Vietnamese forces have attacked twice an
American destroyer ship in the Gulf on Tunkin.
5.1 The Vietnam war
The Vietnam war was considered as imperialist by the left wing not only in America. Indeed,
it all started with Colonial France occupying Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh and his soldiers fought
against the French occupation for many years. The involvement of the American was ﬁrst
by ﬁnancial aid to France in 1953. Later, America started to directly being involved in the
war in 1961, with combat advisors in the Kennedy era. This involvement was enhanced by
the silly ’Domino theory’ that feared the taking over by communism one country after the
other. In 1963 Kennedy says that if we will withdraw from Vietnam, the communist will
later control Thailand, and Cambodia, and Laos and Malay.... Well, the USA pulled out of
Vietnam and non of these countries are communist now.
Many American troops started arriving to Vietnam at 1965. And it was the ﬁrst American
war to be opposed to in masses. Big rallies against the war started at 1965. It came to mass
demonstrations. One of the later of was attended by 250000 Americans. It was times of
protest, Hippies, and rebellion in America that was later inﬂuenced by the ’student rebellion’
of France at 1968. It was the ﬁrst war, too, to be shot by television, thing which brought the
tragedy closer. Reports were uncensored and painful. By the way, the generals have learned
something since then. Of course, as a sign says in joke in the movie ’Dr Strangelove’ the army
thinks that: peace is our occupation. Naturally, wars are the occupations of generals and
the wars continued all the time (it was rare for the USA to ﬁnd a time it was not in war with
someone). However, the certainly learned not to let the media free access, or alternatively
put in the war newspaper reporters that are embedded with the soldiers and sold their sole
to the many times evil point of view of the army. Those embedded were many things but
not real reporters.
Many signs of corruption from a left wing point of view where there: for example, the
people who fought the war where mainly low-class and colored people.
From the musical ’Hair’ where a hippy says:
’The white people are sending the black people, to kill the yellow people, to depend the
land they stole from the red people!’.
The view of the far left in short....
The war started with Kennedy, but was largely escalated during the Johnson and later
Nixon administrations. Nixon also invaded Cambodia. The killing of Kennedy may have
been the reason for the escalation so paranoia (I am myself not convinced till today that one
man acting alone killed Kennedy) and conspiracy theories made a comeback.
It may all have been taken better, if it not where that, tragically, America started loosing
the war: In 1968 during the Tet attack the North Vietnam soldiers get even into the American
embassy, and are driven out. The year 1968 was a dammed year. The murder of M.L
King (April 4 1968). Kennedy was the anti war candidate of the Democrats. But he was
assassinated shortly after M.L. King was assassinated namely in June 5. The 1968 Democrat
convention was held in Chicago during a year of rage throughout the USA. Large number
of demonstrators outside the convention were ﬁghting police. The police even attacked
Mike Wallace and Dan Rather that day. President Lyndon B. Johnson did not attend the
convention. After the Tet attack he decided he would not run for a second term. This is
as the war became so, so, unpopular. It was a bitter democratic battle between Eugene
McCarthy the anti war candidate and Hubert Humphrey, the candidate of Johnson. The
democrats did the crazy thing to elect a pro war candidate. So he lost against Nixon that
promised the end the war.
There was another major and ironic reasons that the democrats lost the election. The
60’s were also time of victories of the civil right movement promising that everybody can
vote, banning racial rules (some racial rules were already repealed in the time of Kennedy).
The Democrats were portrayed as helping the blacks and hating the army (the latter was
not that fair). This cause them irreversible damage felt until today!
Nixon got many voters from what was known as ’The democratic south’. In the south,
for years, the whites voted Democrat as Lincoln was republican. I am not sure till today that
a majority in the south thought that freeing the slaves was a good act. Seeing the liberals
helping the blacks they hated so much, and still hate, made the white people from the south
change their mind. The south is deep Republican territory for years now, till today. The
south never became democrat leaning again. In all the south states the trend in always
Republican even today with the possible exception of Florida.
So now it was Nixon in charge. He seems to raise a special kind of hate from many liberal
Americans, even before Watergate, even though I am not sure why. For his beneﬁt, I will
say that he was the last republican president so far that cared somewhat for poor people.
He suggested to Ted Kennedy a health care law that is much more liberal than the one that
Obama passes. Ted Kennedy said no!. The republicans were engaged for a long time in
alternatives for health care that had a main idea of an individual mandate (everybody must
by insurance otherwise those people that come in critical condition to the emergency room
and had to be treated, were free loaders. Today, the Republicans are against an individual
The next disaster in the war was that students are killed by guards in Ohio in what was
came to be known as May 4 massacre or Kent State massacre. These students were not even
protesting Vietnam but the decision to invade Cambodia (by Nixon).
After that student riots are all over. America has understood, for a very short while that
there is some limits to power and they can not win this one. The peace treaty is signed in
1973.... The ﬁnal blow is that Saigon falls in 1975. America looses the war as opposed to
all promises... The Americans in both sides fell betrayed. The right said: they did not let
us win. The left said what you expected they to say. Later, there was an additional tragedy
that the soldiers got a harsh reception upon coming back to USA (’baby killers’ and so on).
I must say here: a terrible mistake by the hippies. They were right on the war was not
necessary hence evil. But the soldiers that went trough hell, are not to blame.
After the American left Vietnam, Re-educational camps were founded in south Vietnam,
by the Vietcong. A million and a half people were butchered. However, today we see that the
domino theory was not valid after all. Because no country mentioned above is communist
now. Its the economy who had the last laugh. In 1992, Bush, the Republican president grants
permission for trade with North Vietnam. Nowadays, we can ﬁnd, for example, McDonald
in north Vietnam. No less.....
5.2 The Watergate aﬀair
Coming to the Watergate aﬀair. During election time, Republicans ears-drop the Democrat
quarters. As usual, the cover work, was much worse than the crime. Nixon lied to America
in TV, in trying to cover basically things that other people did. This was revealed. The
investigation of the 1972 break-in led directly to the reelection campaign of Nixon. This
story had spying in it, and sabotage and bribery. It became known that Nixon recorded
all telephone calls and conversations in his oﬃce. Later, he refuses to give the tapes to the
courts. Nixon admitted in an interview to David Frost that he let the Americans down.
Imagine such a proud person saying that....
5.3 Conspiracy ﬁlms in the seventies
Conspiracy times bring conspiracy movies. This was the last golden age of the American
cinema: the seventies (after that American cinema very very seldom created art). Some ﬁlms
were directly on the war. In Apocalypse now, Coppola tries to investigate how a standard
brilliant commander becomes a monster. Based on the classic: ’The heart of darkness’ by
Conard. Colonel Kurts (Marlon Brando) creates his own kingdom of terror and accuses the
government in treason saying we could have won if they let me. He says newspapers did
not print optimistic news. Also he says that we should use fascist means to win the war.
Become as cruel as the Vietnamese that in some occasion cut all the hand of the children of
some village, just because the Americans inoculated them against polio. This is horror he
says and we should embrace it. The horror... The horror, says Kurts when the man send to
kill him, Willard, which is a captain sent by the army to kill Kurtz.
’Dear-hunter’ was a confusing ﬁlm because it only took the Vietnam war as a pretext.
Cimino’s ﬁlm is not on the Vietnam war and he shows things that never took place in this
war. He did not care about the war at all but rather he was interested in human nature. Yet
formally, the Vietnam war is the background so he got harsh critical reaction for his ﬁlm,
from the left. he just wanted to say that we are ’hunters’ and ’killer’ as these things are part
of religious like ceremonies we hold respecting tradition. The rage was misguided.
Taxi Driver, some say, is a reaction to the Vietnam war as Scorsese directs a parable on
’hell’. Instead of dealing directly with Vietnam, Scorsese for religious reasons shows New
York as ’hell’. “The conversation” (Coppola) is led by the haunted feeling of mistrust. A
sound man misjudges the true nature of the situation. He does not understand who the true
enemy is (ironic I would say. North Vietnam was never a worthy cause for the USA and the
domino theory was idiotic). He becomes so obsessed by ears-drooping and the big brother,
that he peals of the walls of his own house and stands in a naked room. It is not hard to
see such ideas as a parable to what happened to Americans to the citizens after the war
(interestingly, the director Coppola, and the script writer planned the ﬁlm long before the
war and never intended it to be conceived as such. But its hard not to).
An overrated but very famous ﬁlm about conspiracy is Alen J Pakula ’The parallax view’
with people that saw a politician murdered being murdered one by one in a government plot.
In summary: ﬁlm that resemble the old ﬁlm noirs made a comeback in the seventies
because the political time was right for it.
5.4 Conspiracy in life: true ’war wars’ stories that ’Chinatown’
was based on
The water wars of LA began way back. Before 1900. Mayor Eaton of LA a vision of a Los
Angeles that would become far bigger. The problem: growing requires more water. There
was the called then the Owens Valley but North to it, there was the more relevant for us
San Fernando Valley. Eaton wanted to build an aqueduct that will steer the watter from the
Owens valley to Los Angeles. He was ruthless and used methods similar to the one used by
In the turn of the century, the federal government was planning on building an irrigation
system to help the farmers of the Owens Valley. Eaton had inside friends so he bought land
(dry land is cheap, land with water is expensive. Like in ’Chinatown’. You can almost say
its based on a true story). By dirty methods, the city of LA was able to build an aqueduct
whose aim was ’to divert the water of the valley to LA’. But the LA citizens were lied to.
The aqueduct initially pushed water to irrigate the San Fernando Valley to the north. This
was not legal as this valley was not part of LA. The building of the Los Angeles Aqueduct,
was completed in 1913. Water from the Owens River started to reached a reservoir in the
San Fernando Valley. The lie was in place.
Ranches from Owens valley rebelled because their water was diverted to the an Fernando
Valley. Similar to the orange growers in ’Chinatown’. But they lost to the bullies of LA that
by many dirty means bought over 90 percent of the Owen valley (from its private owners).
This killed all Agriculture in the Owens valley.
Chinatown speaks on two dams. In fact there were two aqueduct. The second aqueduct
was build in 1972 (two years before the ﬁlm was made!). Owens Valley springs dried and
disappeared, since so much water was diverted and so much pumping groundwater was in
aﬀect. the vegetation growth in this valley began to die.
I will stop here, but ’Chinatown’ is a ﬁlm that, took artistic freedom, but nevertheless
the things described in the ﬁlm are not far from the truth. Water wars with bribery and
corruption were truly held not only in the 1930’s but way beyond that (even until the 1990
Given this history, the ﬁlm ’Chinatown’ feels even much more well founded.
6 Water and paranoia in Chinatown
The story on the struggle on water is based on an interesting true story.
The hints in Chinatown relating Watergate and the Vietnam war are rather clear.
The water problem: The thirties were among the golden era and pre-TV era years of
Hollywood. Ticket sales sky rocketed. Hollywood has established the talking ﬁlms and its
’escape via movies’ ideology. The studios (that were there from the beginning, all famous
ones, like Warner brothers, and even a studio that collapsed and disappeared later: RKO,
that produced ’Citizen Kane’) got water from LA. The water-wars were a major source of
concern. The water supply was a threat on the mer existence of Hollywood but the huge
box oﬃce they held was a solution (even if water was expensive). The ﬁlm takes place in
times of a severe drought. This is indeed very reliable as we know from history.
And so, one of the main subjects in the ﬁlm is water: the corrupt rich man (Cross) wants
to buy the Sun Fernando Valley cheaply. He tries to accomplish that by diverting water,
creating an artiﬁcial drought. He tries to make to break the back of orange growers. He uses
methods of bribery and corruption. He buys the land using false identities of dead people
and old people from Mar-Vista, the home for the elderly he owns.
So without water, Cross surely will buy the land for very little money. Then he will stop
diverting the water, remove the Dam and the valley will ﬂourish again. And the prices of
these lands will skyrocket. It seems that it was (is?) widely conceived that controlling the
valley is key if you plan to control the resources in California as a whole.
If it was only that, maybe I would not say that water is simply an obsession in this movie.
But there is more. Beside the fact that all the conspiracy is about water, there are many
side-scenes involving water. For example, Jake spies over Katherine and Mulray in the lake.
Remember even the scene when Jake mocks the gangster in the elevator:
Gangster: My water stopped. Jake: ’How would you know. You don’t take baths, and
you certainly don’t drink it. Maybe a letter came from the city hall but then you would have
to know how to read.....’
Note also that in the barber-shop, a car overheats and the radiator blows steam. Very
symbolic: water combined with pressure. And the rest home for the elderly is called Mar-
Vista; Sea view. There are more examples.
All this water issue hints to Watergate.
6.2 The Vietnam war and ’Chinatown
And do we have Vietnam? Yes we do. The ﬁlm is ﬁlled with people from the far orient, and
its end, when the ﬁnal magnitude of corruption is revealed, takes place in Chinatown. And
foreign people are not well tolerated in the world of Chinatown. The hate for foreign people
is described well in the ﬁlm. For example, we see that in the rest house Mar vista, they do
not admit Jewish people and Jake says: neither does my father.
And there is one crucial combination of the two matters: Vietnam and Watergate. Just
remember this: how does Jake Gittis ﬁnds out who the who is the killer? This (the revelation
of who the bad guy) is traditionally a peek turning point in most detective movies. Its of
great importance. And its especially of great importance in Chinatown, because it tells us
what the movie is about. The Chinese gardener says ﬁrst “bad for the glass” and then at a
crucial moment, after Jake’s ﬁghts with Evelyn, the Gardener says the crucial words:
“Salty watel, bad fol the glass...”
After this line, Jake understands what happened. He ﬁnds in the salty pool the broken
glasses of Cross, and solves the mystery: Cross is the killer! He killed Mulray there. This is
why salty water was found in Mulray lungs. So its salty water, bad water, that is the key
to the mystery. An oriental (Vietnam) guy, makes Jake notice the bad, salty water(gate).
Thus, Vietnam and Watergate appear in the ﬁlm, after all.
7 ’Chinatown’ and destiny
7.1 Higher forces
What is the meaning of this symbolic Chinatown?
One of the most dominating theme in the Polanski’s ﬁlms is his sense of fatalism. The
hero, much like in the Greek tradition, will succumb the greater forces, and will not be able
to stop the mighty forces that push him toward his downfall. Every event is pre-determined
in the fatalistic philosophy.
For example: Consider the “Tenant” by Polanski, who also acted. Seeing the wounded
girl all covered with plasters, with her black hole open mouth, he gets haunted by this image,
and the tenant will be later practically drawn to suicide. He gets madder and madder, with
apparently higher forced dominating him, and the open mouth image will return, this time
with the wounded tenant himself. Rosemary, of “Rosemarie’s baby” will succumb to the
satanic forces, in a battle she could never win. She ﬁnally has the child of the devil. The
boy and man in “Knife in the water” are bound to clash. The girl in “Repulsion” is bound
to be driven mad. And so on.
In Chinatown this is even more apparent:
Jake tells Evelyn that he used to work in Chinatown, and tried to save this girl, but
only drove her to hear death. Needless to say, this situation will fatalistically return in the
rest of the movie. This time Jake will try to save Evelyn, only to, again, drive her to her
death. Therefore, Chinatown is the place were the fatalistic destiny awaits. To enhance the
mythological “primitive” nature of the situation, the heroes are given biblical names: Jake-
Jacob-Yaakob, Eveline-Eve-Hava. Evelyn is like the ﬁrst mother. Jakov fought an angel in
the old testament. Here is ﬁghting the devil: Noha Cross.
Here is an example of fatalism:
After Jake reveals Katherine, that seemingly is held against her will in an isolated place,
Jake confronts Evelyn. This is a moment Jake reveals Evelyn has lied to him. In their
quarrel, the head of Evelyn drops down, and she touches the horn slightly making a short
noise. This fatalistically PREDICTED the end of the ﬁlm. In the end of the movie, this
situation will return, and Evelyn head will drop to the horn, to make an annoying long
sound; this time her head will stay down....
Another fatalistic detail is with the eye of Evelyn. Jake spots a “defect” in her eye. She
has some DARK spot in her green left Eye. “Its a BIRTH mark”, says Evelyn. At the end
we see this genetic defect acting again: her father is responsible for a bullet shot in her back
of the head, passing trough this eye of hers. The black in her eye predicts the tragedy: black
here is a symbol for darkness evil and tragedy, in this ﬁlm. And the fact that this “defect”
is genetic explains that her father will be responsible for her death.
And you can ﬁnd other events repeating in a “predicting” way. For example, Jake almost
ﬁnds the glasses, and is interrupted by Evelyn, and later he does ﬁnds the glasses. Evelyn
saves Jake twice. The gardener says ﬁrst “bad fol the glass” and then a longer line: “salty
watel, bad fol the glass” and so on.
7.2 Chinatown the evil in sight
After Jake discovers the depth of the evil scheme of Noah cross, his incest and his murders
Jake has a ’canonical’ short conversation with Cross.
Jake Gittis: How much are you worth? Noah Cross: I have no idea. How much do you
want? Jake Gittis: I just wanna know what you’re worth. More than 10 million? Noah
Cross: Oh my, yes! Jake Gittis: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat?
What could you buy that you can’t already aﬀord? Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gittis!
This question is critical in understanding many things, but most of all the situation in
USA today. They almost do not build anything as everything is for proﬁt. They did not use
to be like that. They did build the Hoover Dam for example.
What can a rick man, that becomes much more rich buy that he can not but with say
its ﬁrst 10 millions?
Nothing. His life does not change if its worth goes say from 100 million to 200 million.
And money is like power. It corrupts and its addicted. Its an illness called greediness. If
you are not of a hugely strong personality, you will become ill. By then the question of
Jake (imitated countess times later in cinema) is not relevant. They dont think of whats the
diﬀerence between 100 million or 200 million. They are sick. Cant control themselves, and
then real corruption starts.
In short, there is a diﬀerence between Kubrick and Polanski. Kubrick is a philosopher
that by observation got to the conclusion that we are born evil. Polanski is far from being
a philosopher. By his life experience, if a man or a woman is alive, they are evil. No
And the ﬁlm has a brilliant line that shortly describes the corruption.
’What did you do in Chinatown?’ asks Evelyn.
’As little as possible’ answers Jake.
One of the strongest most meaningful lines in cinema history. There are many of those
in Chinatown. This line is painful to hear.
There may be many places were corruption rules. But in the ’Chinatown’ of Los Angeles
the police does not even try to change the situation. In Chinatown the mob rules. You have
to take it as a fact as otherwise you both are not going to change the situation and get hurt.
If you try to arrest the Maﬁa heads, in the best case you will be ﬁred (the Mob is protected
via powerful men it gives bribes to). In the worst case, you may get kill. They are simply
to strong to ﬁght against.
So what can you do? ’As little as possible’, namely, let things remain as they are. This is
politely described by Gittis by saying: ’You cant alway tell what is going on in Chinatown’.
The way Noah Cross once explained it to Jake is by saying:
’You may think you know what you are dealing with but you don’t’.
Jake says that the district attorney used to tell him in Chinatown. Here, again, we that
Cross IS Chinatown. He is evil, and too complex and smart, too rich to be caught. Like the
criminals in ’Chinatown’
This is establishment evil. Why? Because the chain has many weak spots. Even if a
policeman is honest, the judges and politicians may not be honest and may be on the take.
You may be honest but weak. Like Escobar clearly is. He is afraid of Cross no doubt. Cross
that has connection with politicians way above the police chief. They make sure that Cross
is never touched and they made it clear to Escobar in no uncertain means. So what can
As Jake says: Escobar is honest ’As far as it goes’ (namely, as much as he can...) ’He
has to swim in the same water we all swim.’
The bad experiences from the past, in the time as a policeman in Chinatown, must have
convinced Jake to quite the force and become a private eye.
Here is the key dialogue that makes this clear:
Evelyn Mulray: Tell me, Mr. Gittis: Does this often happen to you? Jake Gittis: What’s
that? Evelyn Mulray: Well, I’m judging only on the basis of one afternoon and an evening,
but if this is how you go about your work, I’d say you’d be lucky to, get through a whole
(single) day. Jake Gittis: Actually, this hasn’t happened to me for a long time. Evelyn
Mulray: When was the last time? Jake Gittis: Why? Evelyn Mulray: It’s an innocent
question. Jake Gittis: In Chinatown. Evelyn Mulray: What were you doing there? Jake
Gittis: Working for the District Attorney. Evelyn Mulray: Doing what? Jake Gittis: ’As
little as possible’. Evelyn Mulray: The District Attorney gives his men advice like that?
Jake Gittis: They do in Chinatown.
The one in charge of justice tells the policeman in Chinatown not to ﬁght corruption! Jake
has to recognize that crime is and will fatalistically be the normal situation in Chinatown.
The Judges and politicians are corrupt due to, naturally, greed. They take dirty Maﬁa
money. Evelyn is right by saying on her father: ’He owns the police! And, corruption is a
concealed secret, no body talks about it. Talking about it is a big sin.
At the end of the movie, when it becomes apparent that Noah Cross will get away with
it, Jake tells to Escobar in a hard to hear voice:
’As little of possible’
This line, fatalistically, returns again. This means: you, sir chief of police, are a coward.
You are afraid to engage the corruption. You are afraid of Cross.
This is true ’crime’ by Jake. He breaks into the open this secret ’agreement’. Talks
about the elephant in the room: we are corrupted, but we NEVER talk about it or admit
it. Indeed, the chief of police, upon hearing this line jumps as if a snake has beaten him:
’What did you say??’, like saying: ’How dare are you??’ How dare are you let this secret in
the open?? Later he releases Jake and tells him: ’I’m doing you a favor’. Enough said. After
all if Noha Cross really wanted it, they would arrest Jake for extortion and much more. He
got oﬀ easy. Escobar sees not arresting Jake as a favor he does for Jake. And it is.
Jake starts walking away, but then cant help it and turns around trying to start another
quarrel with Cross. Jake’s associate tells him:
’Forget it Jake, its Chinatown’.
Meaning: there are people in America that will always get away with it or at least this
is as they saw it in the seventies. Rich people will win because they can buy their justice.
Many years later, O.J Simpson comes to mind.... ’Its Chinatown’ means ’Its impossible’.
Its worse: Cross Hugs Katherine covering her eyes not to see her dead mother. How are
we to know that he wont rape Katherine? This reminds me of the ’cured’ Alex at the end of
’A clockwork Orange’ and the song at the end of the ﬁlm saying ’I’m happy again’... This
means that Alex will start all over again with his rapes and violent behavior. Because as he
says ironically he is cured alright. Free ape again (not the second possibility: a machine).
Free of the Ludovico treatment that made him feel nauseous whenever he did a violent
act; This treatment made him a machine but now was no longer eﬀective. Yes Cross with
Katherine at his side is also “happy again”. The rape may continue.
With this regard its interesting to mention another movie by Michael Cimino. Recall the
scene from ’The year of the Dragon’. Mickey Rourke goes to Chinatown and tries to arrest
the Maﬁa heads. His superiors come and ask him on his deeds. He says: ’I’m arresting these
people. I’m being a cop. Remember?’. ’Forget it Mickey, its Chinatown’ would Polanski tell
The fact that Chinatown is corrupt makes it a very scary place. ’Jesus, this place is in
Chinatown!’ Jake‘s assistant says horriﬁed over the phone, upon Jake telling him to meet
him there. Disillusioned Jack answers: ’I know where it is’.
7.3 Chinatown, and the evil you do not know of
Is there absolute evil in Chinatown versus absolute good? What is the meaning of the name
of the bad guy: Noah Cross?
Noah: the holly man from the book of Genesis. Cross: the savior, the holly Christ. But
to cross someone also means to betray him/her. Duality. God combined with evil; This is
one of the main motives in this ﬁlm. But Noah Cross?! Does he have anything good about
him? Is this name ironic? Not exactly. As in the tradition of ﬁlm noir, there are no total
evil, or total goodness in Chinatown. Remember that as the biblical story goes, Noah saved
the world from a ﬂood. Yes, Jake was right. Water again. With the faulty dam, this Noah,
Noah Cross may cause a new ﬂood.... He is not called Noah for no reason.
However, in the Polanski movies, the evil in never complete evil, but more than that: the
good is also evil. Note that the ﬁrst name of Mulray is Hollies. But, Mulray is not holly: he
once was convinced by Gittis to build the ﬁrst faulty dam that broke down.
In the ﬁrst Polanski movie, “Knife in the Water”, we ﬁnd a married couple, and a younger
man, that is a young image of the husband. Its a largely Freudian movie, with many symbols
that truly deserves an analysis of its own. In “Knife in the water”, it looks like the wife the
the “good” character, less infantile for sure than the two males. But a deeper look, reveals
that the woman is the clear winner of the mutual struggle. She is one of the sources of the
unavoidable struggle between the boy and the husband. She provokes these ﬁghts using sex
as a weapon. She goes trough an erotic transformation in the ﬁlm, from a respectable lady
to ﬁnally, a nude scene. And she humiliates her husband, leaving him in the symbolic end
of the ﬁlm to chose between two horrible choices: either go to the police and admit he is a
murderer, or go home and admit his wife slept with the younger man.
In “Repulsion”, we see the opposite: A disturbed, killer woman (Katherine Deneuve). Is
she total evil? But in the end we indirectly observe a creeping old photograph that implies
that this girl may have been the victim of a cruel, perhaps incestuous father.
In Rosemarie’s baby, once again the opposite: Rosemary seams completely pure, but she
accepts to nurture the son of the devil, and perhaps as implied by the last camera movement
in the ﬁlm, that goes out from the house into the sky, she will spread the inﬂuence of the
devil into earth.
The ’Lady and the Maiden’ tells the story of a woman that was torchered and raped in
Argentina in the notorious times of the army rule (starting about in 1976). She meets her
tormentor and starts torturing him. She stops only when he says the truth. Like if someone
in ’Chinatown’ would say ’Yes, its as little as possible’ I am sure Jake will feel better. They
are corrupt, but at least admit it. In Chinatown, no admission is given and the situation is
much worse than in ’The death and the Maiden’.
Perhaps the two most representatives of this combination of evil versus good and good
is evil in the Polanski movies are the ﬁlms: Cul-De-Sac and Bitter-moon. In both of these
ﬁlms, we see that the so called victim, the poor innocent character, turns out to be no better,
but perhaps worse than the so-called criminal of the story.
And in Chinatown: is Cross a complete evil? By no means.
Jake to Cross: “Tell me, when its enough, when is the money enough?”
This became an iconic question. A naive question I have seen in many ﬁlms and not only
in ﬁlm. I mean, what is the diﬀerence if you have 3 billion dollars or 4 billion dollars?
Then, Noah reveals Jake his wonderful perhaps truly wonderful vision, for the future of
this area. Noah answers: ’its not a question of money’. ’I want (to win) the future’ he says,
’The future!’ So, the villain has vision, and pathos. And he truly believes in the above so
deeply that the end justiﬁes the means.
But its much much more daring, the claim Polanski wants to pass trough. As Jake and
Noah speak, Noah recalls Jake:
“My grand-daughter is all I have left. You know I lost Evelyn a long time ago”
Now, a truly amazing dialogue evolves.
Jake is amazed by this answer of Noah, and replies:
“Who do you blame, Her????? (Do you blame Evelyn??? After raping her????).
Noah: “I do not blame myself. You see, most people did not have to face the fact that
under the right time and right place they are capable of ANYTHING”.
In the remarks I give on the ﬁlm Schindler’s list (one of my 22 chosen ﬁlms, This can be
found in my homepage) contain the few remarks I will give here.
Therefore, what Noah answers is: You Jake are like those court judges in ’A clockwork
Orange’ that so proudly and self importantly punish “criminals”. They seat way way above
and claim moral superiority.
But what they did to Alex is a crime after all, as a machine can not survive in a world
of apes and near the end Alex tries to kill himself.
Are the criminals always inferior compared to the judges? The judges judge and it seems
they feel moral superiority. What a nonsense.
It not at all certain that people that judge are better than the judges ones (as it says in
the new testament. The one who is totally pure, let him cast the ﬁrst stone). If you judge,
you have to know you are not evil. But it does not matter if you are not evil now. You have
to prove your inherent goodness when your life is at stake. Do you know, for example, how
would you have behaved if you were magically be transformed into a young German and the
time was between 1933 and 1941 (the mass killing of Jews and others started there). You
see Jews disappearing all over. You see trains carrying children to their extermination. The
Jews shout out loud for help by not saying anything.
Like Earnest Janning says in ’Nuremberg trials’
My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the concentration camps. Not
aware. Where were we? Where were we when Hitler began shrieking his hate in Reichstag?
Where were we when our neighbors were being dragged out in the middle of the night to
Dachau?! Where were we when every village in Germany has a railroad terminal where
cattle cars were ﬁlled with children being carried out to their extermination! Where were we
when they cried out in the night to us. Deaf, dumb, blind!!
Would you you under this ’right place and right time’ as Cross calls it join the anti Nazi
regime? Will you be one of the very very few that hided and helped Jews? Or will you (even
opposing the Nazi regime) keep quite? Even if you keep quite you are part of the problem.
A collaborator. Then you are as guilty almost as the Nazi. Like M.L. King once said: “At
the end we would not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”.
Only if you would succeed in such a terrible test: should I help the Jews and risk death?
and help the Jews, then you perhaps have a right to ’judge’. How many people joined actively
the anti Nazi movement? How many of them risked their life and hided Jews? Jake, are
you sure you are one of these real heroes? Maybe, Jake, just maybe, under this ’right time
and right place’ as Cross calls it, have become the devil. A Nazi or a Nazi enabler. ’So dont
preach to me’ says Cross. The vast majority of people are exactly like me but just were not
In the old testament, god says that we are born evil. This has a very direct connection
to ’Chinatown’ as it is what go says after the ﬂood. After the story of Noha and the ark:
’And god smelled the ﬁne smell. And god told his heart: I will no longer punish every
living as I did. Because, the urges of the heart of humans, is bad, from its youth’.
How many Noha of the bible, that is described as a righteous person and a gelable person)
are there? God says that The urges of the heart of humans, is bad, from its youth. Namely,
we are born evil.
We dont have to go to such extreme measures. There isn’t, at least its not certain, good
people and evil people. The way we act when the going gets tough is mostly dependent on
your history in life. Polanski himself will say: All of us are born evil. I know because I saw
all his ﬁlms and read interviews. Polanski thinks that when people judge other people, and
speak high and mighty, they should be very careful; Maybe you are not better. Maybe they
think they are good just because they dont know themselves.
If there is only one conclusion out of this ﬁlm, this is it. And, as in the theory of
the Auther, it reﬂects the inner world and beliefs, of Roman Polanski. The answer to the
question: why does Roman Polanski believes fatalistically that evil will win, is that this evil
and weakness are internal to human. You are BORN evil. “Good” humans, will act in an
evil way under the “right” circumstances”. Its like a destiny. Fatalism again. But fatalism
that is not pre-determined because the gods spoke, as in the Greek Tragedy. Fatalism for
the reason that we are the way we are. Shakespeare has many plays like that.
Chinatown got out in 1974. So, it lost the Oscar to Godfather II. But, Robert Town won
an Oscar for the script. If the Academy got it right once for sure, it was with giving Town
the Oscar for the best script ever made.
But remember the above before you start judging. Like Brian says in ’The life of Brian’:
’Dont judge other people unless you want to be judge yourself’.
There are very few exceptions to this rule. I truly hope that whomever reads these
remarks will feel after them a worst person, not a better person. But that is just me and