Friday, November 16, 2007

Michael Moore Sprit And Body Of Time

Michael Francis Moore, is one of most influential personalities of our pop culture and with his documentary sicko he knocked on bad health systems doors.
Moore shoot more music spots for Rage against the machine and R.E.M. While shooting the screen Sleep now in the fire (rage against the machine) the police hold him up because the team had no permit to shoot on Wall Street.
In one of screens of documentary movie Sicko about 50 million people without health insurance in USA Michael Moore shows global measurement about efficient of health systems. The states falls in last few years on 37 place it only two places before Cuba. The fall of efficiency American health is ilustrated with few secs of some soap opera where a doctor is operating a patient and doctor meanwhile slicing his leg asks patient: do you feel any pain, and patient respond: No, no, you just continue. In one of movies On NY Times Square there was loud laugh while these scene, like they would be watching some kind of best comedy.
Those few minutes were stolen from some Slovenian soap opera. Slovenia takes 38 place on health efficient list, and is also west European country where Spielberg found Karhozy. The author of soap opera mr. Branko Djuric had no will to comment stolen parts, and as well union between states and Slovenia was not the only contact that used production team of Michael Moore. At first it seem that Slovenia will get a great peace of pie in the third most viewed documentary movie, because Moore wanted to show Americans something to compare to some two million citizens country health system. All together it started two years ago, whe production team from NY contacted the Slovenian embassy in states from where in top secret mode to establish a contact with some Slovenian movie workers. Moor's team wanted to shoot an interview wit that time health minister , but he dint agree to an interview but he offered some state secretary. But it all feel apart because Moore discovered that this country is In great development state and simply not interesting enough for american public.
A heavy man from Flint (Michigan), started his media career as journalist at local newspaper The Michigan Times, but soon he over grow it and he established alternative magazine The Flint Voice. When he was eighteen he candidates for member of school committee in Flint and he was elected as one of youngest political function in American history. As exercised young writer he got invitation from California; in San Francisco in eighties he was editor of cult magazine Mother Jones. Moor's professional was marked the most in second half of eighties, when General Motors company moved from Flint to Mexico because of cheaper parts, what had disaster consequence for Flint and turn idyllically city to third world. Moor confronted in his home town with consequences neo liberalism and globalization; which are two greatest subjects in his work. The fall of his birth town he put down cult documentary movie in 1989 Roger&Me, which became better known good ten years later, when he shot Bowling for Columbine and as young man he won in shooting contest and got special life time membership. in National Rifle Association.
Controvert director at the beginning of 21 century captured the spirit of its times and with radical form of infotainment brought closer to crowds painful subjects of American society.
Fast he became info point for critics and painful metaphoric resistance against neo conservative machine, which in seven years of dominating in country brought popularity of United States to lowest point in history. Moore says, that What drastically changed United States is election deception when instead of Al Gore became president George Bush in year of 2000, but on those controversial elections he played role in team of Ralph Nader. He payed great sorrow for that later, because the separation of left votes played role in result of election. That is why he begged his friend Nader in 2004 elections not to participate. Nader listened to him. Anyhow just a bit before those elections in movies started to show movie Fahrenheit 9/11. Moore's showing and interpretation of american political economical reality the public understood as fiction, as another reality show, in which was public playing a par itself. And again the winner was Bush.
Understanding of Michael Moore as rebel and revolutionist was proof that left side is death and personalized Zeitgeist. That in time of global war and terror , american acts of pace, that was before based on fear of calling to war and not on compassion , left only as cult. So discus of social critics and , consequently, rebel drastically changed, if you want to talk to large and more and more passive crowd. Because of informatics technologies and existence independence the fact that happened in their home land they accept as something that happened in third world., and that is the way they ignore the pain of others. Moore the revolution that him self appeared, changed into video clip and in times of anti global raising took a chance of auto argumentation. Which is possible only if it's born from real experience: from victims in person (which is partly present in Sicko). But Moore newer went to Iraq or Afghanistan fields of death or in carpet factory where preschool kids are in slavery to create fortune of first world. As real american he put on first place safety and on second fun or entertainment. All the rest is less important. Especially credibility.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Breakfast on Pluto

Irish Rebellion / Glamour / Pregnancy / Down Syndrome / Adoption are interesting plot keywords of interesting movie Breakfast on Pluto. How deep is the meaning of movie title if all you know about movie are just plot keywords? That is all i new and i had to see it...
Sometimes a scene can change completely the way you are responding to a film, for better or worse. I wasn't enjoying Neil Jordan's latest film much until the effeminate hero, played by Cillian Murphy, threw a cache of IRA guns into a lake as part of his campaign - actually his life's work - to not be "serious".

At that point, the character of Patrick "Kitten" Braden (Murphy) became more than a remarkably pretty but irritating Irish transvestite growing up in an uncomprehending and unbending Ireland of the 1970s; he became heroic instead of just quixotic, tempestuous and passive.

That's the essential challenge of the movie - Patrick's passivity. Jordan is making a film about a modern Candide, someone who retains his innocence and optimism in the worst of all possible worlds. But that restricts the character's ability to act, rather than simply act up. Terrible things happen to Patrick in the film's 129 minutes. His response varies from smiling and blowing a kiss at his attackers, to putting his arms round their necks, to running away.

That's why throwing the guns in the lake struck me as a turning point - he does it without running away, knowing that it will have dire consequences. The two local IRA hoods know it was him; indeed, he admits it when they come to collect the weapons from the caravan in which he's living. As they force him to his knees and put a gun to his head, he cries out: "Kill me, I've got nothing to live for anyway."

Even at this point, he's playing one of the old movie heroines on whom he models himself - a little Bette, a little Ingrid, even though he'd rather be Mitzi Gaynor. I had often felt like slapping him, but this was where the character - and the movie - started to take hold. It will be too late for some viewers, but patience has its rewards. The longer the film went, the more I liked it. Not all of it works, but it has the genuinely epic emotions and sense of artistic adventure that tell us Neil Jordan is serious, even if Kitten is not.

There are obvious surface connections with The Crying Game, which shared the theme of a tranny in the Troubles, but Jordan sees it as much more directly related to The Butcher Boy, his earlier film based on another novel by McCabe. Both are concerned with the consequences of a troubled childhood; both are somewhat hallucinatory; both are comical tragedies with a debt to Irish writers such as Sean O'Casey, whose influence Jordan has acknowledged. He describes this new film as Tom Jones meets Candide in the 1970s. It has a somewhat mannered construction, divided into 36 chapters, each titled like an 18th-century novel, which adds to the sense of deliberate artifice.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Mostly Cheap Confection

Let's spend few words on Olivier Dahan's movie La Mome/La Vie en rose.
Made in France, 2007, it will take us 140 minutes.
I'm an artist, we hear screaming in this movie La Mome or Edit Piaf. Abandoned in childhood and raised in bordel (French synonym for closed place, established for prostitute to give their service) got name Edit Piaf from her first mentor Louis Leplee, a man that recognized her talent, put her on stage, and took care about her first recording contract. In point of many times clearly shown status we could expect classical biographic drama about life and work of an artist, but no, Dahan made his point from other corner.
Life in Pink tells about Edit Piaf, that she was miserable all her life, that she was suffering and most of the time more or less addicted. We wont miss any classical biographical chlishe's about an artist, which most important thing in life is stage, about most loyal public, that accept that artist for their own. All told about Edit Piaf, is off course truth, but all of it is only bear bones over which Dahan
hangs biggest chlishe of European art mainstream and especially high budgeted musical
: the stage is the world of an artist and opposite, all the world is on the stage/
Life in Pink is not bringing and showing almost nothing more than so many times emphasized art of Edit Piaf.
But Dhan is not able to put complete story even in context, not even thinking that he would work on subject. So, that is why he is so obsessed with reconstructions, which are more attached to budget than art itself... With Dahan we can discover the Paris of early thirties, bad smell of bordels , romanticism of their coffee shops, fashion trends together with never missed baret hut'
s. And what about Edit's art? We know her as famous chanson singer, even as national icon. Who knows why? But Dahan prefers to exaggerate with dynamic of the story than with most important details. So we have new therm "deconstruction of movie biography" and very admired jumping over in time, which actually don't serve to anything. For other facts is here Biographical Encyclopedia, which suggest to Dahan, who is not bringing single ray of light over mythology and canonized status of singer. meanwhile there were other important circumstances, period of second world war, her cooperation with Cocteau and discovery of Montand. He simply jumped over what is in frame of conservative biographical drama.
So Childhood- Rise-Fall- Death are escaped as case of dilettante move or in best point of view is just fact of ignorance. If half million of people walk behind singers funeral, and French capital literally stands still, then must relation between her and the people exist as something special, would not you say so?
What charmed people like so proud French nation, her voice solo or something more? Maybe fact that including all the fame she had, she was still mirror picture of a small man? Maybe her courageous acts to support members of Resistance in second world war? Please check in encyclopedia, because Dahan is offering only cheap confection for public, which is ready to suffer for two hours in cinema.

Monday, April 30, 2007


"Eight Millimeter" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Though it includes profanity, partial nudity and ugly violence, its depictions of pornography are relatively discreet.
I watched this move more than twice, so it is time to writ about it. It is movie that closed my eyes for many times. Similar movies are Hardcore (1979), Stonestreet: Who Killed the Centerfold Model? (1977), Snuff (1974), Mute Witness (1994), Frisk (1995), O Fantasma (2001). All those movies are hard to watch, and they had problems to prove that some inserts of movies are not for real. The theme is hard and it exist in real world , no matter how hard we try to tell ourselves it is fiction. It is in human nature to show our power upon others. As many of us living we share this small world with sick people too. Some of them are a private eye that enters a horrific world of degrading sex and bottom-feeding pornographers. It exist no matter how we hide the truth from our lives.
There are some others, even there is few of us who love this film.
Director Joel Schumacher born in New York 1939 into Jewish family is gay and film director. He had crashed down with Batman and Robbin, and he puled him self out of directing misery with Nicolas Cage, best man to do the role.
Andrew Kevin Walker Joel Schumacher's "Eight Millimeter" delves into the perverse underworld of the pornography business, shocking audiences with the realization that sex and violence can be so dull. Though the film moves, according to production notes, "from the lurid sidewalks of LA's Hollywood Boulevard to the squalor of New York's meat-packing district," it's also a story that ends with leaf raking on a suburban lawn.
Short synopsis:
Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) is a surveillance expert on the rise. He's living the American dream with a wife, Amy (Catherine Keener), infant daughter, and a house in the suburbs of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. After the completion of an assignment for a U.S. Senator, Welles is summoned to the house of a recently deceased captain of industry. His widow, in settling his estate, has discovered an 8MM film in her late husband's private safe. The silent short depicts the apparent murder of a young woman by a large, masked figure, what is known as a "snuff" film. Greatly disturbed by the film's contents, the widow hires Welles to find the identity of the woman and determine if she is still alive. Welles finds the girl's identity and follows her trail from the time she ran away from home to Hollywood. Once there, Welles meets adult bookstore clerk Max California (Joaquin Phoenix) to act as Virgil to Welles' Dante. As the two begin their descent into the world of underground pornography, the detective grows more and more distant from his family, as if he cannot shake the taint of the world in which he now walks. Tom and Max eventually meet pornographers Dino Velvet (Peter Stormare) and Eddie Poole (James Gandolfini). By this time the detective finds he can no longer walk out of the inferno. This finally takes the film where it wants to be: in the midst of sleaze and shady characters, including Joaquin Phoenix as a scene-stealing porn shop clerk who becomes Tom's sidekick and helper. Advised to wear a leather jacket and start asking for the hard stuff, Tom throws himself into this research and encounters an assortment of sinister miscreants.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Paparazzi serve us!

The term paparazzi comes from the Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita (1960), a tale of the decadent movie business in Rome. In the 1950s, many Hollywood companies flocked to Rome, and this combined with the native Italian film industry caused Rome to be briefly called "Hollywood on the Tiber".

La Dolce Vita ("The good life") chronicles the decadence and hedonism through the eyes of gossip columnist Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastrioanni ). His partner in crime is a photographer named Paparazzo (Walter Santesso), who specializes in capturing celebrities in compromising positions. The film, not to mention the real life scandals which inspired the movie, did much to bring public attention to the celebrity pursuing writers and photographers.

The name is actually an Italian family name, and is probably a corruption of papataceo, a type of mosquito.

La Dolce Vita
This major artistic biography of Federico Fellini shows how his exuberant imagination has been shaped by popular culture, literature, and his encounter with the ideas of C. G. Jung, especially Jungian dream interpretation. Covering Fellini's entire career, the book links his mature accomplishments to his first employment as a cartoonist, gagman, and sketch-artist during the Fascist era and his development as a leading neo-realist scriptwriter. Peter Bondanella thoroughly explores key Fellinian themes to reveal the director's growth not only as an artistic master of the visual image but also as an astute interpreter of culture and politics. Throughout the book Bondanella draws on a new archive of several dozen manuscripts, obtained from Fellini and his scriptwriters. These previously unexamined documents allow a comprehensive treatment of Fellini's important part in the rise of Italian neorealism and the even more decisive role that he played in the evolution of Italian cinema beyond neorealism in the 1950s. By probing Fellini's recurring themes, Bondanella reinterprets the visual qualities of the director's body of work--and also discloses in the films a critical and intellectual vitality often hidden by Fellini's reputation as a storyteller and entertainer. After two chapters on Fellini's precinematic career, the book covers all the films to date in analytical chapters arranged by topic: Fellini and his growth beyond his neorealist apprenticeship, dreams and metacinema, literature and cinema, Fellini and politics, Fellini and the image of women, and La voce della luna and the cinema of poetry.
La Dolce Vita was a three-hour, panoramic view of contemporary Italian society as seen from the perspective of a journalist, played by Fellini's alter ego, actor Marcello Mastroianni. A savage if subtle satire that exposes the worthless hedonism of Italian society, La Dolce Vita provides a wealth of unforgettable images, from its opening-a parody of the Ascension as a helicopter transports a suspended statue of Christ over rooftops with sunbathing women in bikinis-to its signature scene of bosomy Anita Ekberg bathing in the Trevi Fountain. The film was a scandalous success, a worldwide box-office hit that was condemned by both the Catholic Church for its casual depiction of suicide and sexual themes and by the Italian government for its scathing criticism of Italy. Celebrated as a brilliant social critic, Fellini now found himself under careful scrutiny by the international community, which anxiously awaited his next film. 8 1/2 represented a brilliant gamble: as a filmmaker who did not know what film to make next, Fellini decided to make a film about an internationally acclaimed director who does not know what film to make next, thus confronting his personal confusions head-on; Mastroianni played the director's alter ego. Having directed six features, co-directed another (counting as one half) and helmed episodes of two anthology films (each one also counting for a half), one of which was Boccaccio '70 (1962), Fellini realized he had made 7 1/2 films and hence chose 8 1/2 for his most reflexive film. For the first time, surreal dream imagery clearly dominated, with no clear demarcation between fantasy and reality in this groundbreaking and exceptionally influential film.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Butterfly Effect

The butterfly effect is a phrase that encapsulates the more technical notion of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory. Small variations of the initial condition of a nonlinear dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system. So this is sometimes presented as esoteric behavior, but can be exhibited by very simple systems: for example, a ball placed at the crest of a hill might roll into any of several valleys depending on slight differences in initial position.
The concept of the butterfly effect is sometimes used in popular media dealing with the idea of time travel, usually inaccurately. Most time travel depictions simply fail to address butterfly effects. According to the actual theory, if history could be "changed" at all (so that one is not invoking something like the Novikov self-consistency principle which would ensure a fixed self-consistent timeline), the mere presence of the time travelers in the past would be enough to change short-term events (such as the weather) and would also have an unpredictable impact on the distant future, so that no one who travels into the past could ever return to the same version of reality he or she had come from.
Life-defining moments, eh? Alas, we've all had them. Just think what could have happened if I'd said, "yeah, I missed you as well" instead of laughing and leaving the room, all those long years ago. Now Butterfly Effect offers you the chance to go back and change all that.. the downside being you or one of your friends might end up with no arms.

The film reverberates around two (why not one?) key incidents in the childhoods of sweethearts Evan and Kayleigh, and their pals Lenny and Tommy. The old memory loss card is played, to some good effect, as a plot device. Well the first time anyway. Then it happens again... and again... and, yep, again. Ad nauseam.

Its overstated central theme is the arbitrary nature of life, taking Chaos Theory's 'butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and causes a storm in China' adage and stretching the point to similarly ridiculous extremes. Akin to "if I hadn't broken my arm and missed that Physics lesson last century I could have discovered world peace instead of still being a dosser" or "if I'd given that girl who came round in 1993 her tea in the good mug I could be discussing life, the universe and everything with that group of sophisticated, influential intellectuals standing over there rather than debating Starsky and Hutch versus the Dukes of Hazard with these plonkers".

Hollywood always goes for exaggerated drama and unsurprisingly the various scenarios were rather more edgy than your usual ruminating of the 'what ifs' over a bag of peanuts. I say edgy, but Butterfly Effect once again takes a concept and does it to death it giving us child-porn, limbless-ness, mental instability, murder, fatal accidents, drug habits, prostitution, sojourns in prison, male rape and devil-worshipping roommates. Ok, ok, so he was just a Goth. Butterfly Effect missed a trick there.

The acting - what can I say? The child scenes had enough ham to provide nutritious fillings for a national school trip's worth of sandwiches. You may chime in with but they're only kids, what more can you expect? Please refer to Stand By Me. Or leave the kids out of your movie. Jesse James (Tommy at 13) was good. Kayleigh's incarnation as a prostitute: very unconvincingly portrayed. Very bad. I don't know whose at fault - Amy Smart or the directors. They can be equally blamed - Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber (the writer director team who previously begat Final Destination II) for making this film what it turned out to be, and Smart for agreeing to be involved in it.

The Butterfly Effect folks did allude to personal responsibility and the repercussions of making wrong choices. But it didn't dwell on it, preferring to deflect any chance of contemplative thought with awful stereotyping and side-show razzmatazz, completely changing the life of Ashton Kutcher's character Evan Treborn whenever the pace slowed. However, Ashton and Amy's not so smart choice in accepting their roles is a good lesson in itself in personal responsibility, or lack of it. They are no doubt quids-in: it’s a box office smash in America. But so was Forest Gump.

Despite all my negativity, the film was great entertainment - quite hilarious in fact, (though as I wouldn't say this was intentional they shouldn't really get any credit for that either). But there's no real reason not to enjoy it if you trade your cynicism in for popcorn, and go with the intention of having a laugh at them rather than in the belief that this is going to be a bona fide horror flick.

The Butterfly Effect is a hybridisation of Memento and Back to the Future,with elements -I'd like to say the best bits... but I'd be lying - of Magnolia and Stand By Me thrown in for good measure. As if that wasn't enough already it unashamedly copies its key concept straight from the closing tube doors debacle of that cannily named film Sliding Doors.

Did I mention you have to suspend your disbelief? Remember to do that. 'Cos it sure as hell won't happen automatically. Not for die hard cynics or those who prefer their plots consistent. Great for sneering at in a supercilious manner.

Ashton Kutcher Q&AAshton Kutcher Q&A
There's no escaping the fact that 26-year-old Ashton Kutcher is America's current It boy but suggest that his status has anything to do with his girlfriend of more than a year, Demi Moore, and you'll get his heckles up.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Message and Manipulation

In psychoanalytic theory, films are supposed to touch our unconscious and connect to our deepest fears and hopes. That so few do is probably less because of the inadequacies of Freud’s theories than the incompetence of most filmmakers. Most of the time we just cannot believe what’s happening up there on the screen, so we can hardly be moved by it.

CHINATOWN disturbs us. It penetrates many psychic defenses, surrounds us, and in a sense, places our heads under its bell jar. From the opening sequence—a series of semi-pornographic pictures of a couple screwing in the woods—it arouses our curiosity and totally involves us. We are like children trying to figure out what these adults are doing sexually, what is happening in this primal scene, what are these huge figures up to? We are confused—the photos turn quickly, the couple are clothed but are screwing—and even a little frightened. We are also informed, on almost a subliminal level, of Polanski’s political point. The last picture is of the woman being penetrated from the rear—a sexist image Polanski uses to say: in this world, everyone takes it in the ass.

Polanski’s plot in CHINATOWN, on its surface, is about political corruption, a Water Department (Watergate?) scandal in Los Angeles in the 1930s. But his real story concerns human corruption, so deep and extensive as to be terminal. And his message, for all its apparent topicality, is finally so pessimistic, really nihilistic, that although Polanski exposes the corruption of capitalism (the sexual as well as the financial), he does not offer even the wisp of a political alternative. Everything turns to blood (or water or money) in this world. Polanski’s talent is such that for the length of the film he can almost convince us of his vision. He can tap some very deep fears and pessimism in our psyches. Thus he turns Chinatown—the place as well as the idea—into a symbol of human corruption, chaos, and immorality unimaginable to most straight Westerners. It is possibly even a symbol of early sexual mysteries, primal scenes, about which, he suggests, it is best not to inquire.

Polanski totally controls the film. He is a master craftsman, meticulous and inventive, so careful and so in control that you have to admire his work as you would the product of a great Baroque jewelry maker. We see his control in the following touches:

·the 1930s titles
·the intricacies of the names (J.J. Gittes: will he get it? Noah Cross: no one crosses him, etc.)
·the references to other films (MALTESE-FALCON-like shadows on the detective’s glass door, etc.)
·the photographic composition (the titles framed in black, most shots framed in black—even when it means looking through binoculars or rearview mirrors or front windshields—an entire world framed in black)
·the photographic color (suffused, golden browns or navy blues: almost every shot is filmed in the late afternoon, early morning, or night—the white heat haze of Los Angeles is turned into an autumnal death-bed darkness)
·and even the music (late 1930’s deep, tenor sax; Bunny Berrigan’s “I Can't Get Started with You,” a longing there’s always a party out there, somewhere else).

His pacing is slow, at times languid, almost boring. Polanski tries to convince us that so was life at this time, at all times. Even his violence is subdued—a mutilation of the hero (done by Polanski himself, in a white suit), a few punch-ups, and a bloody ending. Nothing to compare to the overt violence of ROSEMARY'S BABY or MACBETH. But it’s as if he were trying to take violence to a lower stratum of the psyche and permanently plant it there. Polanski does not attempt to thrill or even terrify us by CHINATOWN’s violence. Rather, he attempts to get us to accept its permanence. As an actor, Polanski appears a second time. He is coming up the driveway of the Mar-Vista rest home when Gittes escapes. He is the man that the thug, Mulvahill, refers to when he says, “Someone wants to see you.” He is in charge of violence for Noah Cross. He is both physically and psychically in control of the violence in CHINATOWN.

Polanski is less visible in his manipulation of the plot and of the viewer. When Gittes in the opening scene is tricked by the phony Mrs. Mulwray, so are we. Throughout the film, when we think Gittes is really on to something and we find out that he has been tricked, so have we. He sees the pictures of Mulwray and Cross arguing outside The Pig and Whistle. (Cross is a pig, Mulwray was about to blow the whistle? But it was also a real restaurant chain.) Gittes scorns the pictures, says they're useless and tells his assistant, “This business requires some finesse.”

And, of course, the photos are a key to the entire plot. We sort of know that and when we see the picture of Cross on the Water Department wall, we make the connection before Gittes does. But in the end, we're not very much ahead of him and we are as manipulated by Polanski as Gittes is by Noah Cross.

Polanski gets us to identify with J.J. Gittes. He makes the detective a recognizable type: the lone gun, wise guy, private detective. Polanski also gives Gittes a streak of romanticism (that girl Gittes hurt long ago in Chinatown). Gittes is shrewd, corrupt (except he draws the line at extortion), crazy and convincing. (Jack Nicholson plays him perfectly: Nicholson’s on the screen almost constantly and his very lack of emotional range—which makes him so tedious in other films—works well here.)

Polanski also wants us to identify with Gittes’ bravado and basic confusion. We quickly realize that Gittes has been fucked over so many times that he’s only looking for a little edge, just enough to keep going and stay a little ahead. Even his rage is somehow muted, tired. He fills his life with small-time tricks (the watches under the wheel; the Assistant Water Commissioner’s business cards; the page torn out of the deed file in the Hall of Records; etc.). We cheer as he triumphs over officious clerks and dumb cops. But he can never get far enough ahead to figure out what is going on, to get on top of it. Nor, once inside Polanski’s plot, can we. Gittes is the petty-bourgeois. He’s always telling his secretary to “draw up the papers.” But just as she is gum-chewing and bubble-headed (versus the Water Department’s efficient man-woman), Gittes is only competent within his small-time world, or as he says, “matrimonial work.” Finally he is no more able to understand the upper classes, the people like the Crosses who control things, than, Polanski implies, are we.

Polanski presents Gittes with Evelyn Mulwray. She is a Cross, and just as she confuses Gittes, she perplexes us. Faye Dunaway, in the part, is authentically looney. According to Polanski, in a recent interview in Rolling Stone (July 18, 1974) crazy off-screen as Faye Dunaway is, she also is mad as Gittes’ erotic dream and the murdered Water Commissioner’s wife. (The Commissioner, the one honest and apparently good man in this entire world, is thin, ugly, wears thick glasses and is soon killed: he’s too much a cartoon. Polanski takes the easy way out with this character, as he does with other political figures: the fat, cigar-chomping and corrupt Coroner, listening to his racing results and not asking questions; and Police Lieutenant Escobar, confused, worried, promoted by a system that knows he won't inquire too deeply.)

Polanski has Gittes tell Evelyn Mulwray that he’s pursuing the case because “I'm not supposed to be the one caught with his pants down.” This connects to the opening photos of the man whom Gittes caught with his pants down and the later affair with Evelyn and the bewilderment throughout. Also Gittes’ petty-bourgeois sense of himself has been challenged (just as it was in the barber shop by the banker’s jibe). Gittes is so intent on not losing his status as a private detective (later, he’s afraid of losing his license), that he can never really figure out what’s happening. He tells Evelyn that her husband’s girl friend “was pretty in a cheap sort of way.” He could not be more wrong. She wasn't the husband’s girl friend and she hardly appears cheap. She is always in expensive white clothes and she is young and virginal.

Evelyn pronounces his name as “giddies” and she makes him light-headed. She reveals a small confidence—that she has had lots of affairs—and he takes it as a major confession. She is playing for much higher stakes than he (or we) can imagine. Even when she finally tells him the truth, he’s uncomprehending, unable to fully understand such a thing. (“He raped you?” he asks. “No,” she shakes her head.)

Polanski presents their romance as tired, doomed, and not very romantic. But most of all, Polanski tries to confuse us. When they kiss for the first time, he circles the camera around as Hitchcock did in the most sexual of all 1940s kisses—Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in NOTORIOUS—but we are most aware of Gittes’ scabby nose. In bed, Evelyn is made to look very oriental, especially her eyes and yellow skin color (Chinatown?), and her feelings are only revealed later, and then flash by. After Gittes follows her to her daughter-sister’s house and confronts her outside, she asks, as he starts to get out of the car, “Aren't you coming back with me me?” “Don't worry, Mrs. Mulwray,” he says with full crassness, “I won't tell anyone.” She answers, and seems hurt, “That’s not what I meant.” But he does leave. In that moment her look says: Men are pigs after all. She has finally started to reveal herself, and Gittes can only fall back into his small-time trap.

Controlling all events in the movie is Noah Cross. When first encountered, Cross seems mainly a rich old crank. Over lunch with Gittes we have little sense of his venality and total power. He’s Evelyn Mulwray’s father, he’s the man who owns Los Angeles, he’s also John Huston. (This is truly a star movie: from its opening Hollywood studio titles to its use of Nicholson, Dunaway and especially Huston. Because John Huston is an authentically great man, it helps us believe that he is more than a character actor playing a man who supposedly owns L.A.. Cross/Huston really might own L.A..) Cross also looks a little like President Roosevelt, and Polanski fills the movie with portraits of FDR (who in public, was kindly and straight but, in fact, was aristocratic, manipulative, and rather careless about bourgeois sexual standards).

Cross is found at the Albacore Yacht Club (Gittes’ assistant thought that he had heard Cross and Mulwray arguing about “Applecore” ). Cross is a biblical patriarch, a kind of first man, and he makes it with Evelyn-Eve (git-it?). He pronounces Gittes’ name, “Gits,” and his contempt for and manipulation of the detective is total. Cross owned the Water Department, he put holes in Hollis Mulwray (we actually see them in the corpse), and he is hardly satisfied with ten million dollars, he wants to own the future. He also can stop a speeding bullet—Evelyn fires at him point blank and there is no blood, only a stiff arm. In the end, he gets exactly what he wants, and because he owns the police, he is invulnerable. He is the true Lord of the Earth, a man tempted to do what other men, like Gittes, can hardly imagine. Polanski both admires him and seems pleased to be his hatchet man.

Polanski is a true cynic. He enjoys manipulating people—thus Cross might be the real hero of CHINATOWN. In the climactic scene of the movie, where we identify with Gittes and his attempt to help Evelyn escape to Mexico, Polanski has Gittes confront Cross with the incriminating glasses. Gittes actually thinks—and we hope—that Cross will somehow crumble. But Gittes is disarmed like a child. Polanski’s point is that we should accept Cross’s mastery as total and inevitable . Thus we should accept the pessimism of the film’s conclusion as equally inevitable.

Gittes has been had, we've been had, and Polanski can retire behind his work of art, smiling at the folks out there, assuming that he has gotten us to accept his vision of corruption and nihilism.

Polanski is like a great Baroque artisan, coming at the end of an artistic tradition—the Hollywood movie. He is content to carve a final, over-wrought product out of it (and possibly, he establishes his film character’s obeisance to Noah Cross as a parallel to his directorial relationship to John Huston). This is a highly Baroque film. Those viewers who like to get inside Baroque puzzles will enjoy it most: Did you notice the counterpoint between the aristocratic Spanish architecture of the Mulwrays’ and Cross’ mansions and the imitation hacienda style of the petty-bourgeois homes? But California Spanish architecture is Baroque to begin with. Did you see the the overheated car through the window of the barber shop? Did you notice the 30s hats shading eyes, making people blind and sinister? Did you hear Gittes’ assistant phone up and say, “Duffy here,” like in the old radio show, “Duffy’s Tavern”? Did you notice ...? Enough, the game is endless, trivia overwhelms content and meaning.

Baroque art is also decadent art: the end of a tradition. CHINATOWN is a decadent movie, both in its artifice and its meaning. Those people who see the world as decay and shit will get inside CHINATOWN and enjoy it most (the Rolling Stone interviewer gives you a whiff of this). Those people who enjoy being led up mysterious alleys and fed false clues (what possible meaning can the Mexican boy on the horse have?) will get inside CHINATOWN and ignore or approve its basic cynicism and audience-manipulation. And those people who see the world as inevitably corrupt and controlled by alien and dark forces will chant the movie’s final line like a mantra, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” But Baroque art, because of its very intricacy, finally excludes all but the artist. Thus if you ever meet a CHINATOWN freak, you are probably confronting an aspiring elitist, and a Roman Polanski manqué (missed, failed, lacking).

Polanski and Robert Evans (not coincidentally, the producer of THE GODFATHER, possibly the key film of the declining United States), are among the masters of the Hollywood Baroque. Polanski, particularly, makes such competitors as Altman and Hill look very thin indeed (compare the density and control of CHINATOWN to the superficiality and wandering about of THE LONG GOODBYE). Polanski, a despicable egomaniac (read his interviews) can touch a psychic stratum, can break through rational optimism, can show that our deepest fears really exist and cannot be banished as easily as we might have thought.

“Do as little as possible,” Gittes says at the very end to Escobar, but also as a final truth to himself, part in anger and sarcasm. Apparently, that’s Polanski’s recipe for declining United States. Lean back and don't fight it, enjoy its decadent art (and be sure to bring $3.00 for a ticket to CHINATOWN). Forget about beating the system, however, because it’s controlled by the Noah Crosses of this world, with the Polanskis as their hatchet men.

There is a pessimism, a darkness in everyone that might be tempted—however briefly—by this formula. But can anyone really consider it a worldview, a life script? Bullshit. And anyway, how would we get the $3.00 to make Robert Evans and Polanski rich if we did “as little as possible.”

from Jump Cut, no. 3, 1974, pp. 9-10
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1974, 2004