RSS

Tag Archives: California

JPF Looks At One Of The Greats: Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.

Director Roman Polanski has had a tough and turbulent path through life—some of it his own making some of it just plain back luck.  Part of my decision to review Chinatown was his legal problems resurfacing again in September of 2009 when he was arrested in Switzerland at the request of the U.S. Government for extradition back to the States to face criminal charges involving alleged sex with a minor from the 1970’s.  On July 12, 2010, however, the Swiss rejected the U.S. request and instead declared him a “free man” although all six of the original charges are still pending in the U.S.

In 1969, before he was personally involved with our criminal justice system, Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, was murdered by Charles Manson and his band of  twisted followers.  Despite the personal hell one would go through under such circumstances, Polanski directed Chinatown which was released in 1974.  Chinatown is a 1974 American neo-noir film based on Robert Towne’s screenplay and starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston.  The film clearly embodies the film noir genre with its multidimensional tale that is part mystery and part psychological drama.

The film, set in 1937 Los Angeles was inspired by the disputes over water rights that had plagued southern California.  Nicholson plays JJ ‘Jake’ Gittes, a private detective who concentrates on matrimonial matters.  He is hired by a phony Evelyn Mulwray when she suspects her husband Hollis, builder of the city’s water supply system, of having an affair.  Gittes takes the case and photographs him with a young girl however, he was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray.  When Mulwray is found dead, Jake is plunged into an intricate web of deceit involving murder, incest and governmental corruption all stemming from the city’s water supply.

Polanski even makes a cameo appearance in film (the clip of course shown here) as the individual who famously cuts Jack Nicholson’s nose forcing him to wear an obnoxious bandage throughout much of the film.  Perhaps most importantly, Chinatown has one my favorite lines said in a movie “Forget it, Jake — it’s Chinatown” (again clip provided for your viewing pleasure).  It is also the last line of this great film.  You are a fool if you don’t make time to watch this one.

 
24 Comments

Posted by on January 12, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

JPF Asks Why Don’t We Take a Look at Barton Fink?

Hollywood lore has it that the Coen brothers were having a tough time writing Miller’s Crossing decided to take a break and ended up writing Barton Fink in three weeks.  Man that must have been one hell of a three weeks because this film is nothing short of fantastic.

Barton Fink is played by John Tuturro.  On an aside, like so many other cast members of this movie, Tuturro also appears in the Coen Brothers The Big Lebowski.  Fink is a successful playwright who is approached by Hollywood to leave his native New York and go on the writer’s Hollywood safari to write B-movie wrestling pictures.  At first Barton is reluctant to go on safari, as he fears it may separate him from ‘the common man,’ whom he pompously regards as the source and reason of his creative outlet.

Fink does accept Hollywood’s high-priced proposal, and checks in to L.A.’s Hotel Earle, a resident’s hotel where he intends to write.  The Hotel is essentially run by “Chet” (Steve Buscemi also in The Big Lebowski) who informs Barton that one of the Hotels fine amenities is a free shoe shine.  After meeting the studio executive, Fink sits down to work but suffers from a serious case of writer’s block.  He becomes torn between his love of creating art with meaning, about and for ‘the common man,’ as he regularly puts it, and the demands of his new Hollywood masters, who are expecting a bestseller formulaic wrestling picture.  Looking for anyway to break his block, Fink begins to look around and venture out into his surroundings.  Perhaps he will even meet a few people.

Enter John Goodman who plays Charlie Meadows, Barton’s hotel neighbor.  Charlie is a charismatic insurance salesman, and becomes a confidante and source of inspiration to Fink.  Fink comes alive when he converses a common man like Charlie, who is supportive and provides comfort in the desolate, and soulless atmosphere of the Hotel Earle and his California surroundings in general.

The Hotel Earle becomes one of the strongest, most disturbing elements of the film.  It is eerie and unsettling, and it’s overall dark and depressing atmosphere is adequate housing, symbolically speaking, for Barton Fink, who is suffering from life-affirming lows and struggles linked with the creative process, ‘The life of the mind’, as it’s referred to in the film.  The Hotel Earle and the mind of Barton Fink are the same – cold, lonely, unsure, messy, and unpredictable.  Eventually the Hotel literally becomes a living hell—fire and all.  Be that as it may, one could go on for days about the symbolism displayed.  The wallpaper peeling in the hotel room that represents Fink’s mind, analogies offered by the very film Fink is working on, references to slavery as metaphors of the studio’s ownership of Fink’s creativity, along with other strong yet accurate accusations of the Hollywood machine (the studio head exclaims to Fink: “This is a wrestling picture, the audience wants to see action, adventure, wrestling.  They don’t want to see a guy wrestling with his own soul!”)

Barton Fink is an intelligent, funny, and powerful story, with dark elements of multiple genres and layers of various meanings, symbols, and representations.  It can be viewed as a strange film, not one to forget in a hurry, but pleasing, as much as it is unnerving.  It stands alone as an example of great film-making, and is certainly one of the finer offerings from the Coen brothers.

 
11 Comments

Posted by on July 28, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: