Thursday, January 11, 2007

I Don't Get It

I hadn't watched a "classic" movie in a while. When I first got Netflix, I tried to be conscientious about renting some of the great films I've never seen. Finally saw The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, 2001, Citizen Kane, Casablanca. But when I started using Netflix (and then Blockbuster) for mostly TV on DVD, that kind of stopped. Until last week, when a mix-up in my queue yielded Chinatown. Watched it. And, really? Don't get it.

This happened with some of the aforementioned films as well - I for the life of me just couldn't figure out what all the hype was about. I mean, it was a competent little detective film, but really not much else, was it? And why so slow? I don't think this is the result of my modern, MTV-generation self being unable to appreciate a slower pace - after all, The Godfather moves slowly, and I loved that. And Citizen Kane is hardly a rocket ride. But this just felt like it plodded, with far too many lingering, drawn-out shots of cars pulling up, cars pulling away. And the whole "water board" aspect of the mystery came across, not as a welcome departure from the glamorous exotic MacGuffins in most mysteries, as Robert Towne apparently intended it to be, but just as dry and boring stuff. The acting was excellent, sure, but the plot and writing were so deliberate and careful that nothing in the film ever grabbed me or got me to sit up and take notice. And I have to admit to just not getting the whole "Chinatown" connection - seemed like the notion of Chinatown as a corrupt, chaotic hothouse of criminality was just tacked on. Not a bad film, no, but "great?" Or even "very good?" What am I missing?

Until Whenever

1 comment:

tomthedog said...

Chinatown is possibly my favorite movie of all time, right up there with Citizen Kane and The Godfather. Here are a couple of links to Roger Ebert's reviews of the film -- his 1974 original and his 2000 "Great Movies" reappreciation. Ebert can probably sum up better than I the beautiful despair of Chinatown -- both the film, and the location within the film that symbolizes a corrupt world against which victory is all but impossible. For the performances -- Nicholson has never been better, and John Huston is one of the most compelling villains I've ever seen -- for the wonderfully layered plot, for the effortless mastery of the noir style, for the shocking revelations throughout and powerful, gut-wrenching ending... I love this movie. And it gets better with repeated viewings, when you can let the complex mystery play out in the background and admire everything else.