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USA 1974

 

There are a lot of reasons why "Chinatown", Roman Polanski's classic from 1974, is often described as the first neo-noir. On one side, we have all the traditional ingredients of a film noir in the sense of Billy Wilder and John Huston: a mysterious femme fatale, a tough guy who - confronted with beauty - becomes tender, a suspenseful plot full of ambiguities, a highly sensual atmosphere and very stylish lighting and camerawork. We can find that all in the beautiful noir films from the 1940s. But then, in the midst of the 1970s New Hollywood movement, Polanski and screenwriter Robert Towne have broken the rules, if there's such a thing as rules. While the opening credits have a nice old-fashioned look, the first shots of the film introduce us to a new kind of noir. A noir shot in cinemascope and composed in earthly Technicolor photography. A film full of sadness, grief and despair, with an ending as unexpected as any other twist in the film.

"Chinatown" is a work of passion; a labor of love if you want. It breaths the spirit of the 40s, though it transforms it into an elegiac search for meaning and truth. It's J.J. Gittes' (Jack Nicholson) search, but as the film progresses and his point of view melts with the viewer's, you can't help but be emotionally crippled in the end, regardless of your first impression of Nicholson's sleazy character.

Then there’s Faye Dunaway, in what I can confidently call her finest performance. Her character Evelyn Mulwray isn’t as open and charming as Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity”, but she has something to hide, and a lot of mysterious facets beneath that. Evelyn is eloquent but distanced, intelligent but secretive. You may think of her as the most stereotypical of femme fatales, but that impression will change radically somewhere in the middle of the film. Watching Dunaway’s perfectly nuanced acting alone is enough to revisit this complex film over and over again.

One may talk about the change of Polanski's style after the tragic murder of his wife in 1969 - and I think that a lot of Polanski's grief is resembled in the character of J.J. Gittes - but "Chinatown" is also one of those lucky movie moments where everything fits together. In a glorious time where major studios gave their directors total artistic freedom, Towne and Polanski created a film worthy to be mentioned among noir precursors like "Double Indemnity" and "Out of the Past". What we have here is inventive and passionate filmmaking; and that's something that has become very rare in modern cinema.

C.P. Czarnecki

Posters

Theatrical Release: June 20th, 1974

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Comparison: 

Paramount - Region 2 - PAL vs. Paramount (Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC vs. Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

1) Paramount - Region 2 - PAL LEFT

2) Paramount (Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Cover

The Original Region 1 release:

Distribution

Paramount

Region 2 - PAL

Paramount

Region 1,4 - NTSC

Paramount

Region FREE - Blu-ray

The Special Collector's Edition is also available in The Jack Nicholson Collection (Chinatown / The Two Jakes - reviewed HERE) on November 6th, 2007.
Runtime 2:05:04 (4% PAL speedup) 2:10:24 2:10:31.824
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.64 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

2.35:1 Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.27 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Disc Size: 49,292,448,750 bytes

Feature Size: 41,698,381,824 bytes

Total Bitrate: 33.33 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate ; PAL

Bitrate : NTSC

Bitrate : Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English, French (Dolby Digital 2.0) DD 5.1 English, DD 2.0 mono English, DD 2.0 mono French, D 2.0 mono Spanish, DD 2.0 mono Portuguese Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3019 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3019 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Embedded: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB)
Dolby TrueHD Audio English 331 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 331 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Embedded: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB)
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB
Subtitles English, none Optional English, French, Spanish, Portuguese English, English (SDH), French, Spanish, Portuguese, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Paramount

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen Anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Retrospective Interviews
• Theatrical Trailer

DVD Release Date: 3 March 2003
Keep Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Paramount

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen Anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Chinatown: The Beginning and the End
• Chinatown: Filming

• Chinatown: The Legacy
• Trailer

DVD Release Date: November 6th, 2007
Keep Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Paramount

Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1

Disc Size: 49,292,448,750 bytes
Feature Size: 41,698,381,824 bytes
Total Bitrate: 33.33 Mbps
Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 Video

Edition Details:
• Commentary with Robert Towne and David Fincher

• Water and Power - 3-part (1:17:51)

Chinatown: An Appreciation (26:15)

• Chinatown: The Beginning and the End (19:27)
• Chinatown: Filming (25:35)

• Chinatown: The Legacy (9:38)
• Trailer (3:20 in 1080P)

• 8-page liner notes essay with color photos

Blu-ray Release Date: April 3rd, 2012
Standard Blu-ray case inside cardboard slipcase

Chapters 16

 

Comments:
NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - March 2012: Yes - this is a solid upgrade. The SD was never very favorable to Chinatown's appearance - but Paramount's brighter dual-layered transfer has a high bitrate and supports the film well with superior contrast and detail plus colors are tighter and more robust. The murkiness of the video-like DVDs have been replaced with a sharper, if not pristine, and far more authentic film-like presentation. Chinatown is still very thick looking but now in 1080P this seems far more 'comfortable' than out-of-place as it was with the previous digital releases.

It sports lossless options via Dolby TrueHD in 5.1 at 3019 kbps and a less robust stereo 2.0 channel. The surround offers some minor separations and a few more bombastic ones. There are also foreign language DUBs available. Audio is another notable step forward. The presence of Jerry Goldsmith's score seems more prominent and sounds crisp and moody via the uncompressed. There are optional subtitles and the Paramount Blu-ray disc is Region FREE.

Fans are really treated with a commentary with Robert Towne and David Fincher who square off as a vibrant discussion pair to talk about Chinatown. This is a great was to celebrate the film reaching Blu-ray status. There is also a lengthy (1 1/4 hour) 3-part documentary on 'Water and Power' and its implications in bringing it into the Greater Los Angeles area (Towne takes a tour of the Aqueduct) as well as a nice 'Appreciation' lasting 25-minutes with input by many including Steven Soderbergh, Roger Deakins, James Newton Howard and others. The rest are the three previously released featurettes (Chinatown: The Beginning and the End, Chinatown: Filming and Chinatown: The Legacy) lasting over an hour. The above supplements are all in 480i but there is an HD trailer included and 8-pages of liner notes featuring an essay and color photos.

Chinatown is a film that only improves with repeat viewings as you find more and more to appreciate with its endless layers of neo-noir darkness. This Blu-ray package has a ton of value and we strongly recommend it!

Gary Tooze

***

The New SE: Video:
The new Chinatown (still 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen) looks cleaner, brighter, sharper, and more detailed than previous DVD releases. Colors are quite lush, and there is a little bit more of the image on the sides depending on the shots.

Audio: You get the same DD 5.1 English audio track that appeared on the previous R1 edition. It does a decent job of easing the constriction of old mono technology, but obviously, it can’t compete with today’s wide dynamic ranges. Purists can opt for the original DD 2.0 mono English track (restored to remove hiss, pops, and other wear-and-tear defects).

Coded for Regions 1 and 4 (North and South America), a language menu appears when the disc loads. Selecting English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese determines the audio that accompanies the movie (though the Main Menu is in English). Thus, you can watch Chinatown with DD 2.0 mono French, Spanish, and Portuguese dubs. Optional English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.

Extras: “Chinatown: The Beginning and the End” is a retrospective overview of the production. You get interviews with key personnel like Roman Polanski, Robert Evans, Robert Towne, and Jack Nicholson.

Chinatown: Filming” features Polanski and Nicholson talking about specifics such as cinematography, make-up, and on-set frustrations.

In “Chinatown: The Legacy”, Polanski talks about how he viewed working on the movie as a job rather than as a pet project. Robert Evans, Robert Towne, and Jack Nicholson also talk about how they were unsure of the movie’s ability to succeed. However, as Polanski observes, time has been kind to Chinatown.

Finally, you get an anamorphic widescreen trailer of terrible quality. It gives you a sense of how lucky we are to have this new DVD release.

(You’ll have to hang on to the previous DVD for that disc’s retrospective interviews.)

--Miscellaneous--
This time around, you don’t get an insert with chapter listings.

Yunda Eddie Feng

BOTTOM LINE: It's a steal at less than $11.

****

About the PAL edition: The picture is perhaps a little bit too soft, but everything else is stellar. The original audio track is excellent as well.

The only extras we get are the retrospective interviews and the trailer. Both are nice additions, although nothing to make a loop for.

 - C.P. Czarnecki

The image, like on the region 1 release is very weak and muddy. We can hope this will be re-issued possibly with a commentary or a 2nd disc of features.

Gary Tooze

 


Menus

 

(Paramount - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Paramount (Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC RIGHT)
 

 

 

Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Paramount - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Paramount (Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Subtitle sample

 


1) Paramount - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Paramount (Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Paramount - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Paramount (Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Paramount - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Paramount (Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Paramount - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Paramount (Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Paramount - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Paramount (Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Paramount - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


More Blu-ray Captures

 

 

Box Cover

The Original Region 1 release:

Distribution

Paramount

Region 2 - PAL

Paramount

Region 1,4 - NTSC

Paramount

Region FREE - Blu-ray




 

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