November 26, 2009

Chinatown ***

*** Chinatown, Robert Towne, 1973

Chinatown is a classic, but, like many other classic things, I missed it the first time around. It's used for examples in dozens of screenwriting books, and the nefarious Mr. Polanski was in the news, so I figured it was time to see/read it.

There were some interesting differences between Draft 3 and what made it on the screen, like the scene where Nicholson and Dunaway escape the nursing home, and especially the ending, which was quite different. Towne and Polanski had significant differences on the ending and it wasn't until 20 years later that Towne came around to agreeing with Polanski's take on the ending.

The script reads a lot more gumshoe than the film looks. And Nicholson and Houston bring some menacing power to the breakfast scene that goes beyond the page. But it's clear why this was an instant classic. Towne went on to write the screenplay for a lot of exciting movies, including The Firm, MI-1 and MI-2.

Worth the read.

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