Chinatown (1974) Poster



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  • Chinatown is based on an original screenplay written by Robert Towne. A sequel called The Two Jakes (1990) was also based on a screenplay by Robert Towne and stars Jack Nicholson (who also directed it). Edit

  • As a young man, Jake was a police officer in Chinatown. He once tried to protect a woman, but as a direct result of his intervention, she was "hurt" (an implication that the woman died). As a result, Jake became cynical and apathetic. So Chinatown is actually a metaphor for failure and inability to do one's job. Over the course of his investigation in the film, Jake again tries to protect a woman, and once again, she is killed as a direct result of his intervention. Jake's last line, "As little as possible" refers to his earlier conversation with Evelyn, where she asked him what he did as assistant to the District Attorney in Chinatown. His reply was "as little as possible", probably referring to the fact that corruption and crime ran so rampant that Jake got the feeling that he did not amount to anything, and may even have inadvertantly helped injustice take place. His repeating of the line after Evelyn's death is his way of reconfirming his failure to dispense any justice in Chinatown; all the actions he took to protect Evelyn have even helped to cause her demise. "Forget it, Jake; it's Chinatown" is an encouragement to Jake to forget this set of circumstances, just as he "forgot" the circumstances surrounding his time in Chinatown. The dramatic irony of this is that the viewer knows that Jake has never forgotten what happened in Chinatown, and that he will probably never forget the events depicted in the movie, inevitably leading to him becoming even more cynical and apathetic than he was already. Edit

  • Yes, it's called The Two Jakes (1990), the title referring to Jake Gittes himself and another character named Julius "Jake" Berman, played by Harvey Keitel. It was released in 1990 after many years of legal hangups and failed attempts at production. It was originally to have been directed by Robert Towne, who wrote the screenplay for Chinatown. Eventually the film was directed by Jack Nicholson. It was generally panned by critics when it was released. Edit

  • The man was homeless and had been living under one of the bridges that Hollis was investigating for freshwater runoff. There's a short scene, right before Jake talks to the Mexican boy on the horse, where Jake takes a long hard look at one of the columns under the bridge and sees the bureau dresser the coroner was talking about. Jake talks to the boy, whom Jake had seen talking to Hollis, and finds out that there had been water running through the seemingly dry riverbed. When Cross' plans called for some of the freshwater to be run off, it passed through this riverbed at night, probably at high speed and volume, and flowed over the homeless man while he was asleep or passed out, drowning him. Edit

  • Hollis Mulwray learned about the illegal dumpings and was investigating them himself. Jake witnessed water being dumped for the first time when he was following Hollis; the duct behind him starts to spill water into the ocean. When Jake later goes to investigate the deaths of Mulwray and the allegedly drunk homeless man, he gets confirmation from a young local boy that the LA river has recently been used to divert water, as well as some other places. When he investigates Oak Pass Reservoir, where Hollis' body was found, he nearly drowns when a large amount of water is drained through the spillway he was hiding in. He confronts Mulwray's successor, Mr Yelburton, with this information, but Yelburton replies that they are courteously diverting some water in order to help orange farmers in the San Fernando Valley, and that some of the water is spilled in the process. However, when Jake goes to the farmers to confirm this story, they tell him that not only is LA's Water & Power Company cutting them off from natural water, they are even sabotaging their few remaining water storage tanks and wells in order to drive them away from the land.

    Jake later finds out that all the farming land in the Valley that has become worthless due to the drought is bought up cheaply by the people around Noah Cross. Their intention is to re-irrigate the area as soon as they own it all, making the land fertile and valuable again. However, for that, they need the new dam and water reservoir to be built, which requires the approval of the city and a positive vote from the Citizens' Committee. That would only work if there was a genuine water shortage in LA. Apparently, the water company is doing too good a job in stealing water away from the surrounding valleys; so much that they have to illegally dump some of it from time to time to maintain their claim that there is indeed a water shortage. Mulwray was opposed to the new dam and reservoir because he knew that due to the widespread corruption, the new dam would be unsafe and another accident waiting to happen; but another reason for him was that he suspected that the water company was artificially creating a demand for it, and only Noah and his people would profit highly from it. And that's why he was killed for it. Edit

  • Jake's associate, Walsh, simply misheard. He was watching the two from a parked car some distance away and there was noise coming from the street he was parked on. The word the two men were using was "Albacore". We later learn that the Albacore Club is the exclusive fishing club owned by Noah Cross. Cross and Mulwray were probably arguing about it because Mulwray was finding out how Cross uses his club as a front to cheaply buy pieces of drought-stricken land in the name of unknowing senior citizens from the Mar Vista Rest Home (of which he is a patron). Cross and Mulwray were already on bad terms: Cross did not like that Mulwray had de-privatized the water company, whereas Mulwray never forgave Cross for forcing him to approve the building of the first dam that had ruptured and killed hundreds of people. Plus, Mulwray knew about Cross' sordid history with his daughter and granddaughter. Edit

  • Roman Polanski included so many references to eyes and vision to highlight the fact that the truth isn't always what we see-a main theme of the film. Edit



The FAQ items below may give away important plot points.

  • Noah's scheme really breaks down into two different schemes:

    1. He was surreptitiously buying up desert land in the San Fernando Valley, which was at the time farmland. It is now suburbs, and home to nearly 2 million people. Noah was denying water to the farmers (and sending out thugs that worked for him to terrorize them: poisoning their wells, blowing up their water tanks, like the old farmer claims) to encourage or coerce them to sell their land, then using the identities of the residents of the retirement home to purchase land at a discount. He would then use his influence and knowledge of the water system to ensure the land would be provided with a supply of fresh water for future residents. Noah and his descendants would be rich. Hollis Mulwray, Cross' old business partner, did a lot of investigation on his own and was close to discovering the full extent of Noah's scheme. Noah knew about it and had him murdered.

    2. Cross was also trying to find his granddaughter, Katherine Mulwray, who was the progeny of an incestuous affair Noah had with his daughter, Evelyn. While the real reason for Cross' plans for his granddaughter is not state specifically, he does say at one point that he's "only got one daughter left" and "she's mine too" in his last scene with Evelyn. It's left up to the viewer to decide what Cross actually has in mind when he takes Katherine for himself in the last scene. Edit

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