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This is it people! I've finally got around to finishing Chinatown earlier on June 8, and I'm ready to at least try to propose my character. I'm just going to tell you now that the film definitely deserves all of the praise it's gotten over the decade, although I'm a bit worry that the candidate isn't exactly Pure Evil material considering all of the current members of the PE team. Well, we're about to find out.
Also, if you haven't seen the film yet, I urge you close this proposal and go watch it already, because there will be spoilers! Last warning everybody.
So, are you good? Okay. Here we go.
What's the Work?
Chinatown is a beloved 1972 thriller/neo-noir film, centered around a private detective as he discovers several mysteries within LA, involving the murder of Hollis Mulwray, and comes across a suspicious by beautiful woman, and several acres of land being brought off by during a serious drought. The private also has to deal with various gangsters who pose as well-meaning associates in the water company, when really they want to make a serious profit.
Who is the candidate and what has he done?
Noah Cross was a highly achieved business tycoon who became the richest and most powerful man in Los Angeles from 1937. Upon being the head of the city's water department alongside his partner Hollis Mulwray, Cross secretly exploits his position to destroy water tanks and poison wells. When Hollis finds out about this, he would constantly plot against his partner wanting to make sure everybody in town got their share of the water. One day, Cross would send a woman to impersonate Hollis' wife and ask detective J.J. Gittes to spy on Hollis claiming he was cheating on her. When the real Mrs. (Evelyn) Mulwray finds Gittes, she's rightfully angry with him for spying on her husband without a good reason. Gittes would do more investigating in Hollis' office and at the Oak Pass Resevoir, deciding to talk to Hollis himself, only to find him dead in a saltwater reservoir. Mulwray had a girlfriend whom Gittes didn't know about yet.
When Gittes decides to go down to Albacore Club to talk to Noah Cross in person (one of only two times he's seen onscreen), the latter tells Gittes, "You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't". He also bluntly asks about whether Gittes has slept with his daughter (foreshadowing) then offers to double Gittes's fee in exchange for finding Mulwray's girlfriend.
Later on, Gittes soon learn that Mulwray was actually murdered, and discovered a conspiracy plan of using the new reservoir to irrigate newly purchased properties while leaving the Northwest Valley dry. Initially, Gittes accuses Cross's daughter Evelyn of being responsible; further intensified when a woman named Ida Sessions (the woman impersonating Evelyn earlier in the film) was found dead with salt water inside her lungs. He also finds a pair of bifocals (he thought were Hollis') that were missing from the crime scene during the murder of Mulwray.
Gittes encounters Evelyn as she's about to leave and brutally confronts her (constantly slapping her until she spilled the beans about Katherine), she admits that Cross raped her when she was 15 years old, resulting in her getting pregnant with her sister/daughter Katherine. She also reveals that she staged the rumor of Mulwray having Katherine as his girlfriend to keep her away from Cross. Evelyn also states that the bifocals are not Mulwray's, since he didn't wear them.
Gittes then decides to help both Evelyn and Katherine escape into Mexico. While having Evelyn to meet at her butler's home in Chinatown, he summons Cross to the Mulwray residence, where he produces the evidence to prove that Cross is behind the murders. Noah (onscreen for the second time in the film) then admits of his true plan: to incorporate the Northwest Valley into the city of Los Angeles, which will cover up his crimes and bring the entire city enough water to produce an extravagant fortune. Cross then has his henchman Claude Mulvihill hold Gittes at gunpoint, forcing him to take him to the women.
When the three reach the Chinatown hiding place, the police are already there and they detain Gittes. Evelyn will not allow Cross to approach Katherine, and when he is undeterred, she shoots him in the arm and drives away with Katherine. However, the police fire on Evelyn, killing her (much to Katherine's distress). Cross then takes the opportunity to take Katherine for himself and leads her away while a demoralized Gittes leaves with his associates in shame,
This one is going to be very tough. Noah Cross gets two scenes, and somewhere around 10 minutes of screen time within the 2 hour movie, and as a result, we only get to hear little tidbits of what Noah Cross was like, leaving it up to the audience to interpret the rest and fill in the blanks. But he has definitely shown to hae enough distinct personality traits to not be a GDV or plot device. Based what little we know about the man, he's shown to be completely amoral, ruthless and not afraid to cross any boundaries to meet his goals. He co-owned the water company with Hollis Mulwray, but he got greedy and decided to steal all the water for himself and his men so they could make a profit off of it and the land, not caring in the slightest about how it would start a drought and cause people to die of thirst. Plus, he's the richest man in the city, there's no reason for him to do this. And his friendship with Hollis? Forget it! Hollis eventually rebelled against him to put a stop to the scam, and Cross permanently ends their friendship, by murdering him. And he also kills the same woman he hired to impersonate Evelyn, just because she discovered his plan and decided to aid Gittes to stop him. Also, he's never shown to be painted in a positive light, or stated to be a caring boss to his equally greedy gang/henchmen. He's also stated to be the father of the female lead Evelyn's Mulwray -- who raped his own daughter when she was 15 years old, giving birth to his (grand)daughter Katherine. So you can't call him a caring father either. This is what draws Cross over the line, and made him irredeemable for me. Then at the very end he forcibly yanks his granddaughter away and takes her away to who knows where (where he may have plan to continue the rape cycle).
Make no mistake. Chinatown is already a pretty dark film even without Noah involved. But most of the film's violence is PG level, with the ocassional profanity bumping it up to a PG-13-rating. So how did the film get an R rating? Noah's subplot of raping his f***ing daughter, that's how! Murderers and greedy conmen are common place in the film, but most of their actions are pretty vague or standard. They weren't quite nasty enough to be anywhere close to being Pure Evil. Even Noah, comes very close to not reaching the bar, and maybe they're something I'm missing out on.
Yeah, I fell like although Noah's definitely a nasty man, maybe there's something else I'm missing out on. Do you think he does enough to meet the cut?