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Chinatown

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full title · Chinatown

director · Roman Polanski

leading actors/actresses · Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston

supporting actors/actresses · Darrell Zwerling, Perry Lopez, John Hillerman, Diane Ladd, Roy Jenson, Joe Mantell

type of work · Feature film

genre · Film noir, neo-noir

language  · English

time and place produced · California from late 1973 to early 1974

awards

 · 1975 Academy Awards:
 · Winner, Best Original Screenplay (Robert Towne)
 · Nominated, Best Picture (Robert Evans)
 · Nominated, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Nicholson)
 · Nominated, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Faye Dunaway)
 · Nominated, Best Director (Roman Polanski)
 · Nominated, Best Cinematography (John Alonzo)
 · Nominated, Best Film Editing (Sam O’Steen)
 · Nominated, Best Art/Set Direction (Richard Sylbert, W. Stewart Campbell, Ruby Levitt)
 · Nominated, Best Costume Design (Anthea Sylbert)
 · Nominated, Best Sound (Bud Grenzbach and Larry Jost)
 · Nominated, Best Original Score (Jerry Goldsmith)
 · 1975 Golden Globes
 · Winner, Best Picture, Drama (Robert Evans)
 · Winner, Best Director (Roman Polanski)
 · Winner, Best Actor, Drama (Jack Nicholson)
 · Winner, Best Screenplay (Robert Towne)
 · Nominated, Best Actress, Drama (Faye Dunaway)
 · Nominated, Best Supporting Actor (John Huston)
 · Nominated, Best Score (Jerry Goldsmith)
 · 1975 National Society of Film Critics Awards:
 · Winner, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson)
 · 1975 New York Film Critics Awards:
 · Winner, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson)
 · Nominated, Best Picture (Robert Evans)
 · Nominated, Best Screenplay (Robert Towne)
 · 1975 Writers Guild of America Awards:
 · Winner, Best Original Screenplay, Drama (Robert Towne)

date of release · June 20, 1974

producer · Robert Evans

setting (time) · 1937

setting (place)  · Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley

protagonist · Private investigator J.J. (Jake) Gittes

major conflict · Jake struggles to uncover who is behind a land- and water-fraud conspiracy that has led to murder.

rising action · After a woman dupes Jake into discrediting an innocent man who is later murdered, he slowly pieces together a complex web of corruption that he discovers is masterminded by the wealthy Noah Cross.

climax · Jake confronts Cross with his many crimes.

falling action · Noah Cross forces Jake to lead him to Evelyn, a meeting that leaves Evelyn dead and Cross in possession of their daughter Katherine.

themes · The dishonesty of authority figures; the corruption of the American Dream; the helplessness of common people in the face of evil

motifs · Ignorance; misidentification; haunted pasts

symbols · Chinatown; Jake’s bandage; the saltwater pond

foreshadowing · A farmer asks if Hollis Mulwray is being paid to steal water. Though the accusation is misdirected, it foreshadows the bogus draught the deputy engineer is masterminding and the land fraud the scheme helps to support.When Jake talks about a woman he once failed to protect in Chinatown, Evelyn asks if the woman was killed. Though her question is never answered, the conversation foreshadows Evelyn’s fate and Jake’s inability to prevent it. After Jake confronts Evelyn about holding Katherine prisoner, Evelyn leans her head against the steering wheel and accidentally sets off the horn, foreshadowing the long, unbroken sound of the car horn that signals Evelyn’s death at the end of the movie.

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