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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Chinatown
Chinatown
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 4, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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Roman Polanski's film noir classic stars Jack Nicholson as private detective J.J. Gittes. The world he lives in is 1940's Los Angeles and the characters he must face are wonderfully written as well. The case this time leads him out to the deserts surrounding LA, where a water supply and land accquisition deal is in the works. Something that starts off as seemingly simple turns into a far more complex weave of twists and turns.

The performances are outstanding. Although Nicholson has given great performances in films as recently as "As Good As It Gets" and in older films like "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", one could argue that this is his most intense and impressive effort. Director John Huston also turns in a strong performance as the villian of the story.

It's a film almost bursting with details and complex layers underneath its surface. It builds an entire world in the span of a little over two hours. Director Polanski, his cast and especially the talents of composer Jerry Goldsmith and cinematographer John Alanzo(who did the cinematography for Star Trek: Generations, as well) come together to make an absolute classic, and the quality of this DVD will certainly please fans of the movie.

The DVD

VIDEO:
Paramount has given "Chinatown" a terrific anamorphic transfer in its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. For a picture that's over 20 years old, the quality of the picture is excellent. I can easily say that this is the best that this film has ever looked outside of theaters. Aside from a few slight scratches and marks, this is a completely clear and crisp image. Although it's not always razor sharp, it's certainly crisp and does offer very nice detail. Although "Chinatown" isn't the most "colorful" movie, the color palette used looks consistently natural and nicely saturated, with no bleeding.

As I mentioned, there is are a few small marks on the print, but they are very small and don't show up throughout the entire movie, only in a couple of sections. When this picture looks good, it looks really good; absolutely film-like, and very smooth and strong looking.

SOUND:
"Chinatown" is fairly basic in terms of audio, but the audio quality does not show any problems from age. The Jerry Goldsmith score sounds clear and clean and although dialogue doesn't seem quite as full and rich as most new movies, there is no problems with clarity. There also aren't any instances of hiss or distortion on this track, either.

MENUS:: Wonderfully "noir"-ish main menus have various photos from the movie with the score playing the background. Nicely done and a fine touch by Paramount to introduce the movie. There is also animation when you make a selection.

EXTRAS: Paramount does actually include a couple of extras on this DVD:
Interviews: These are interviews with Robert Evans, Robert Towne and Roman Polanski. These newly recorded interviews are a fine chance for the three main people involved to look back on this classic movie. All three provide an impressive amount of detail about how the movie came together from the standpoint of writer Towne and how the producer and director Polanski both became involved with this picture. Looking at this 12 minute documentary makes me wish that Paramount had gone further in preparing more in the way of extra features for this DVD. The tidbits and notes that these three provide in a matter of about 12 minutes is fascinating, and I wish that a full-length commentary had been included. I also wish that Nicholson would have participated in this documentary as well.

Trailer: The original trailer is included, letterboxed at 2.35:1.




Final Thoughts Classic cinema, well presented in it's release to DVD. Although I would have liked to hear more from the group that participated in the documentary and more extras, I still have to recommend the movie highly and the quality of the video/audio.

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