Chinatown (1974)

2h 10m / R / Mystery, Thriller

Set in 1930s Los Angeles, Roman Polanski’s 1974 neo-noir Chinatown follows private investigator J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) as he delves into a web of corruption, deceit, and murder surrounding the water rights of the city. Gittes becomes embroiled in a complex conspiracy involving a wealthy and influential family, ultimately uncovering dark secrets that reach the highest levels of power.

Inspired by real-life events such as the California Water Wars and the scandals surrounding the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, Chinatown captures the greed, manipulation, and moral ambiguity that characterized the era. It is renowned for its atmospheric cinematography, intricate plot, and powerhouse performances, particularly from Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, who plays the enigmatic Evelyn Mulwray.

As a quintessential example of the neo-noir genre, Chinatown drips with a sense of unease and foreboding under Polanski’s direction, and its themes of power, corruption, and the exploitation of resources continue to resonate with audiences, cementing its status as a timeless classic.

Guests are invited to stick around after the screening for a post-show Film Talk and audience Q&A with retired Tampa Bay Times film critic Steve Persall.

The Summer Classics Movie Series has been presented by Bank of America since 2015. Promotional support for the series is provided by WEDU PBS.