Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974). I am a big fan of Roman Polanski’s movies. Chinatown is my favorite of them all. I am a big fan of Jack Nicholson. Chinatown is my favorite of his movies. Faye Dunaway … well, she’s in Bonnie and Clyde, that’s not fair competition, but Chinatown is my second-favorite Faye Dunaway movie. Heck, I even met Catherine Mulholland once (Robin remembers her as being a very nice woman). Although stories abound about how Polanski and screenwriter Robert Towne were at each other’s throats during the making of the film, I think they balance each other nicely. Towne’s screenplay has become legendary as one of the greatest ever written (he won the film’s only Oscar), so of course, Polanski changed the ending. Towne later admitted Polanski was right. John Huston is as unctuous a villain as you’ll ever see. And always, there’s Polanski, looking over Gittes’ shoulder alongside the camera (except when he turns up in front of the camera long enough to slice open Gittes’ nose). The first film he made after the Sharon Tate tragedy was the bloodiest Macbeth of its time. After a dud that I saw so long ago I can’t even remember what it was about, he gave us Chinatown and the exceedingly weird The Tenant. One can go too far in associating the personal lives of artists with their work, but the fatalistic ending of Chinatown will always be entwined with our thoughts about Polanski’s state of mind in the early 70s. When we did our Facebook Fave Fifty Films lists, Chinatown was just outside my Fifty (#56 to be exact). Jeff had it at #30, while Phil chose Rosemary’s Baby, but had it at #2. #50 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time, but then, it’s on many best-of lists. 10/10.
The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman, 1964). Roger Corman takes on Ingmar Bergman via Edgar Allen Poe. Thanks to color photography, Death’s minions are red this time around, and they play with tarot cards rather than chess. Perhaps the classiest movie Corman ever directed, using sets left over from Becket, with widescreen cinematography from Nicolas Roeg. Vincent Price is a bit less hammy than usual, Jane Asher looks pretty as Innocence Personified, and if the philosophical discussions don’t quite match those of Death and Antonius in The Seventh Seal, it has better horror scenes than Bergman’s classic. 7/10.
On the Road (Walter Salles, 2012). 7/10.