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Without question, CHINATOWN ($20) is an amazing piece of American cinema. CHINATOWN is a totally captivating movie that meticulously recreates a bygone era in the style of a classic film noir. Set in pre W.W.II California, CHINATOWN stars Jack Nicholson as J. J. Gittes, a private detective who specializes in capturing unfaithful spouses on film. When Gittes agrees to investigate the husband of a wealthy woman, he finds himself duped into taking some incriminating photographs that are used to create a scandal for a public figure.

To save his own reputation, Gittes investigates the matter further. However, instead of finding nice, tidy little answers Gittes finds himself dragged down into a quagmire of moral decay, greed, corruption and murder. The beauty of CHINATOWN is the fact that nothing is ever what it appears to be on the surface. As Gittes finds out, no one is on the level, and because of it, he ends up being taken for the ride of his life.

CHINATOWN also stars Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Cross Mulwray, the beautiful socialite with whom Gittes becomes involved during his investigation. Both Nicholson and Dunaway deliver powerhouse performances, which may be the best of their careers. Equally impressive is John Huston's larger than life portrayal of Noah Cross, the wealthy businessman who holds the key to the mystery that finally resolves itself one night in Chinatown. Director Roman Polanski brilliantly guides his stars through the labyrinth of Robert Towne's Academy Award winning screenplay; creating a film that is nothing short of a masterpiece. The cast of CHINATOWN also features Perry Lopez, John Hillerman, Darrell Zwerling, Diane Ladd, Burt Young and director Roman Polanski, who delivers an unforgettable supporting performance.

Paramount Home Entertainment has done an absolutely terrific job with the presentation of their DVD edition of CHINATOWN. CHINATOWN is presented in its full 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and the DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer is absolutely stunning, recreating every nuance of John A. Alonzo's marvelous cinematography. Both sharpness and detail are excellent, without any evidence of artificial over-enhancement. The image literally pops off the screen. Color reproduction is very good at recreating the film’s somber golden tones, as well as the more intensely saturated hues. Flesh tones are naturally rendered and there are no problems with either chroma noise or bleeding. Blacks are an impressive inky black, plus the image provides very good shadow detail and smooth contrast. CHINATOWN utilizes dual layer technology to virtually eliminate all traces of digital compression artifacts.

For this DVD release CHINATOWN is offered with a new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that really showcases Jerry Goldsmith's lush, haunting musical score. The music sounds better on this release than it ever has in the past. Obviously, going back to the original recordings has allowed for a higher fidelity presentation of Goldsmith's music in this mix. Other benefits of the remix are the addition of some directional sound effects, which are localized to the forward soundstage. The surround channels exist primarily to fill out the sound of the musical score. Also encoded onto the DVD are the film's original monaural soundtrack (which has been restored) and a French monaural track. English subtitles are also provided on the DVD.

The interactive menus are nicely designed and utilize a bit of animation and music. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well the DVD's extras. As supplement, the disc includes new interviews with director Roman Polanski, writer Robert Town and producer Robert Evans. The interviews last less than twenty minutes (leaving one hungry for more), but they are something that every CHINATOWN fan will enjoy. A theatrical trailer is the DVD's only other supplement.

As I stated above, CHINATOWN is an amazing film that truly deserves to be called a classic. Paramount has produced a great looking DVD that fans of this cinematic classic are going to want to own.


Chinatown (1974)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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