Chinatown is a classic film noir featuring excellent performances, an engrossing story and impressive camera work. The Blu-ray is a bit on the disappointing side if only because it appears DNR was applied on the video but even so, it’s a fine step up from its DVD counterparts while the lossless audio sounds good. The features are also well done including an interesting feature-length documentary on the aqueduct.
Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Noir
Paramount | R – 130 min. – $26.98 | April 3, 2012
Directed by: Roman Polanski
Writer(s): Robert Towne (written by)
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Hillerman, Perry Lopez, Burt Young, John Huston
Theatrical Release Date: June 20, 1974
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Slip Cover? Yes
Audio: English (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), English (Dolby TrueHD 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.35
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Disc Size: 45.9 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 5.0/5
Plot Synopsis (partially from back cover): Circa 1937, private eye Jake Gittes (JACK NICHOLSON) is hired by a mysterious woman to investigate her husband Hollis Mulwray, the chief engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Gittes’ sleuthing brings him into contact with Mulwray’s real wife, Evelyn (FAYE DUNAWAY), a stunning socialite with secrets of her own. As a determined Gittes delves deeper he soon realizes that even the City of Angels has a dark side.
Quick Hit Review: Director Roman Polanski’s crime drama is really the definition of film noir that is still relevant today, perhaps even more so, that it was back in 1974 when it was released. Chinatown is a movie that has influenced numerous filmmakers and is required viewing for anybody who wants to go into the movie business or just wants to learn more about cinema. This is a film that probably features Jack Nicholson’s best performance alongside and opposite the fantastic Faye Dunaway who nearly steals the show near the end with the shocking plot twist (a real twist, not the M. Night Shyamalan B.S. kind).
Released in 1974, Chinatown had the unfortunate bad luck going against another film classic. While nominated for an impressive 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director, it walked away with only one award for Best Original Screenplay only because the film it competed against won the writing award for Adapted Screenplay… That film? The Godfather Part II. Now, Nicholson did lose out to Art Carney for Harry and Tonto, which is a respectable film no doubt, but IMO he deserved the award. Also, disaster film The Towering Inferno apparently wowed voters and audiences with its groundbreaking effects enough to win a few awards as well (3). I should note that 1974 was an incredible year that also produced The Conversation, an underrated paranoid drama that probably deserved more praise but was no doubt overshadowed by The Godfather Part II.
I think today Chinatown is much better regarded than some of the other films that walked away with the awards which says a lot and perhaps for the better. In the end, this is one great movie that has stood the test of time. It had been years since I last saw the movie but it’s still as effective, and even maybe more so, this go around and well worth watching if you haven’t already.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.0/5
This release comes with a matted, semi-reflective, semi-embossed slip cover.
Feature Commentary – Screenwriter Robert Towne and filmmaker David Fincher sit down for a fantastic track offering up their views on the movie from the direction to the cinematography to the acting. It’s an excellent track that’s both informative and entertaining. While Fincher gives his thoughts, he also serves well as a moderator as well, probing Towne with questions about the production.
Water and Power (1:17:50; SD) is a three part documentary including “The Aqueduct”, “The Aftermath” and “The River & Beyond”. This is a fascinating feature where viewers visit the aqueduct and how incredible it is and the impact it has had on Los Angeles. This isn’t so much about Chinatown though it does relate to the plot at hand, but more a history lesson or something you might see on The History Channel… if they actually still featured anything about history.
Chinatown: An Appreciation (26:15; SD) – This featurette offers interviews with many filmmakers – including Steven Soderbergh, Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry), Roger Deakins (cinematographer, No Country for Old Men) – talking about the influence that the film had on them.
Chinatown: The Beginning and the End (19:28; SD) – In this featurette, we get a background on the movie and includes sound bites from director Roman Polanski, star Jack Nicholson and Screenwriter Robert Towne talk about making the film from the various aspects beginning with the script and its origins.
Chinatown: Filming (25:35; SD) covers the actual, well, filming of the movie with more comments by Polanski and company. Like “The Beginning and the End”, there’s more behind-the-scenes photos providing insights into the movie.
Chinatown: The Legacy (9:37; SD) is the final featurette on the impact the movie had after its release.
Theatrical Trailer (3:20; HD)
VIDEO – 3.25/5
Chinatown arrives on Blu-ray with high hopes and expectations and unfortunately, it did not meet any of them because while technically it looks fine and certainly heads and tails above the DVD release, it doesn’t quite measure up to other Blu-ray releases that have been released around the same era. Now, first things first, the picture looks like went through the DNR process because it is void of any and all natural film noise and grain thus giving a flat look. However, and thankfully I guess, they did not apply edge enhancement so on that front, it’s not bad, and yet still it should’ve been so much better…
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The disc also offers up a well rounded Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track which is fairly dynamic featuring crisp and clear dialogue and some nice ambient noises coming through the front and rear channels. It’s an impressive lossless track and for you purists out there, Paramount was nice enough to also include a restored Dolby TrueHD Mono track which gives you what would’ve been an original experience with a classic film.
OVERALL – 4.25/5
Overall, Chinatown is a classic film noir featuring excellent performances, an engrossing story and impressive camera work. The Blu-ray is a bit on the disappointing side if only because it appears DNR was applied on the video but even so, it’s a fine step up from its DVD counterparts while the lossless audio sounds good. The features are also well done including an interesting feature-length documentary on the aqueduct.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.