Roman Polanski’s 1930s-set, sun-bleached neo-noir remains a cornerstone of Hollywood’s golden 1970s. Jack Nicholson is more subdued than the all-cylinders norm as private eye JJ Gittes, hired by Faye Dunaway’s elegant femme fatale and embroiled in a plot involving the irrigation of Los Angeles orange groves, which gets much nastier and sleazier than it sounds. Skilfully woven by writer Robert Towne (who won the film’s only Oscar), Chinatown transports the style, depth and grit of the original monochrome noirs into a Technicolor world. And Polanski’s malevolent cameo still makes us wince.
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