Chinatown: Above The Film Noir Genre Essay

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The viewer sees a private eye and beautiful client. First thought, "It’s definitely another Hollywood crime drama." On the surface, Chinatown has all the elements of a film noir: the presence of a beautiful but dangerous woman, otherwise known as the femme fatale, a gritty urban setting, compositional tension (highly contrasting light and dark colors or oblique camera angles), and themes of moral ambiguity and alienation. Chinatown, however, is different. Polanski shot Chinatown with color film, and though his colors do appear especially vivid, color film precludes the contrast intensity that black and white film offers. In addition, Evelyn is not the classic femme fatale. Though Jake mistakes her for her husband’s killer at first, Mrs.…show more content…
It shows how Jake is persistent and dedicated to his job, even if it always seems like he is in over his head. Jake, however, also departs from the film noir tradition when he lets his emotions get the best of him. The greatest example of this is seen during the exchange between him and Evelyn when he is trying to find out the truth about Katherine. Resorting for the first time to violence against a woman, the near desperation with which Jake pushes Evelyn to confess is an expression of his fears and anxieties about being completely lost amidst the lies that surround him. The result is the humanization of Jake Giddes’ character. He simply is not perfect, and ultimately fails to see the bigger picture of what he is involved with until . While classic film noir is characterized by high compositional tension, or low lit black and white cinematography, Polanski managed to infuse Chinatown with that sense of corruption and nihilism so prevalent in noir in bright Southern California despite employing a photographic element previously thought antithetical to film noir style: color film stock. The dominant colors of Chinatown are brown, gray, and black, which can be seen as an indication of the film’s allusion to the noir tradition of black-and-white. The various hues of brown and gold can be seen throughout the film, from clothing to homes
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