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