Chinatown (35mm)
Chinatown - © 1974 by Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Chinatown (35mm)

classified 15

Out of Their Depth: Corruption, Scandal and Lies in the New Hollywood


Fri 26 July 20:40

Cinema 1, Watershed

Roman Polanski
Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Burt Young
131 mins, 1974, USA
Primary language

A rare chance to experience this classic of New Hollywood, which pierces straight to the heart of American darkness, on 35mm on its 50th anniversary.

Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson smoulder against the backdrop of late 1930s Los Angeles, depicted as a hotbed of corruption in a narrative firmly grounded in historical reality. Robert Towne was a central screenwriter at the heart of the New Hollywood’s sharp socially-alert scripts. He was tuned into the dramatic cultural changes going on in America and could pull together tightly plotted cinematic stories with authentic dialogue.

Credited or uncredited, Towne was involved in most of the groundbreaking films of the era such as The Last Detail, The Parallax View and Shampoo. His Oscar®-winning script for Chinatown was a more personal project born of his love of 1930s LA architecture and interest in the history of the city, which he channelled through the classic pulp detective novel structure of a Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler.

Director Roman Polanski took that script to craft one of the most perfect and acclaimed films of the era: a multilayered study of power and corruption with devastating emotional consequences. Fifty years on, despite the controversy surrounding Polanski, it continues to resonate with filmgoers and critics, many of whom have declared it the greatest film of all time.

A 35mm presentation courtesy of BFI National Archive.The new 35mm print was made by the BFI National Archive with funding from the National Lottery and the additional support of donors to the Keep Film on Film campaign. Created courtesy of Paramount, using newly restored digital intermediate negatives, at FotoKem in 2022. Presented with Film Noir UK with thanks to Park Circus.

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With an introduction by Michael Eaton, playwright, scriptwriter whose updated edition of BFI Film Classic series on Chinatown will be published later in the year.

Join in The Chinatown Dilemma, a panel exploring the ethical and moral questions opened up by the inclusion of Chinatown in this year’s festival.

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