Monday 21 May 2018 11.43pm
‘Revisiting Chinatown, Again’ 2018 #23916
I last saw Chinatown in March 2017. I don’t remember why, but I watched it with my wife and my dad. That was probably my sixth time, and if it was, that – logically – makes this my seventh time.
It was a film that bewildered me for at least twenty years because I only understood two aspects: the private-eye story and the rape story. The crime, buying up land in North West California, which would be provided for, by the proposed dam – was a scam and a fraud committed by a man who was already wealthy beyond belief – Noah Cross (John Huston). Why he needed to make more millions at the expense of California and L.A. given that he’s 70-years old, if he’s a day over 7-years old, speaks to the greed of this man and many more. Gittes asks him that question and receives a reply that indicates the Cross is without qualms or morals. He only sees his power and prestige as a reflection of any deal he makes.
It’s a dark picture with an unhappy ending where the client – also the victim – dies while the mean old man lives. The man caught in the middle, J. J. Gittes, is ushered out of the film with the advice, he shouldn’t worry, and the comforting words, “It’s Chinatown”.
No one is left content. Everyone is left unhappy except for Noah Cross who gets to keep everything he wants: his other daughter, Katherine, his financial plan for building a dam and bringing water into the valley, and his determination to achieve anything he wants to achieve at the expense of anyone who gets in his way. It makes him a greedy monster, who doesn’t care about anything other than crushing people who are in the way of his plans. No one is safe from Noah Cross and what he wants to do.
If anyone is wondering about why there’s the subplot about the rape of Cross’s daughter and the fact his daughter, Evelyn, is both sister and mother to Katherine, it’s because Cross doesn’t care about anything other than what he wants right now. If he wants sex, he’ll take his daughter Evelyn without a thought of the morality.
John Huston’s arrogance in his portrayal of Noah Cross represents all of the self-interested parties in California, who don’t care a fig – or an orange – for anyone else. They only want to know how rich – whatever the latest deal – it will make them if they follow this path.