Ben Oliver

Banner image for Chinatown


You’ve got a nasty reputation, Mr. Gittes. I like that.
06 September 2015

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and I had a craving to return to an old favourite.

Everything that can be said about this film probably already has been, but I’d like to point out one element I always appreciate about the film; Gittes’ tradecraft when it comes to being a private detective. There are a few moments that always stick with me and watching the film back I was surprised at just how clearly I’d remembered them.

First is the way Jake tracks someone’s movements. He has a glove box full of watches in his car, which implies it’s an old trick he likes to use. He pulls one out, winds it up and sets the time on it. He then places it under the wheel of the target’s car. They run over it, smash it, and he comes back to collect the watch, now stopped at the time they left the house.

Another one I like is when he smashes the red filter on a brake light of the car he wants to follow at night. That way he can simply follow the car with one red and one white light on, and he doesn’t have to get too close. This also allows the audience to see what is happening without having to cut away from Jake’s car.

The other little tidbit that always sticks with me is when he asks for a business card and takes a handful. He later uses them to pose as the person he just met with.

Chinatown never fails to disappoint; Polanski’s masterful direction paired with two fantastic performances make it a timeless classic.

Reply by email