I visited LA during the break, to visit my family. Being in SoCal always generates some nostalgia, as I used to live there. I’m fascinated with early LA - 30’s to 60’s in particular. Needing some movies for the flight home, I elected to nab L.A. Confidential and Chinatown to go for a full noir plate.
I’ve seen LA Confidential before, and liked it, but I was still again surprised just how damn good of a movie it is. The characters are completely captivating. The way Bud White (Crowe), Exley (Pearce), and Vincennes (Spacey) progress through their plot arcs is just amazingly clever. You are alternately disgusted and awed by each of them at various points throughout the movie. Pearce feels like the protagonist and the hub of the story, but he’s not wholly sympathetic throughout. Crowe turn in the thug performance that helped make him famous, but his character is so much deeper than he initially appears. Finally, Spacey makes perhaps the most startling of arcs, turning from vain and lightly corrupt to redeemed through his lynch-pin final words. The weaving of the main and sub-plot are expert. James Cromwell will make you squirm (especially if you’ve seen Babe recently). DeVito and Basinger are brilliant. I can’t rave enough about the film, and am glad to have rediscovered it.
Chinatown is, of course, a piece of film history at this point. It’s hard to say much about it because it’s already hailed as a masterpiece. But certainly a nod must be given to Polanski’s creative courage, as he is reportedly responsible for the film’s ending, and that ending is what made a good film unforgettable. One of the best parts of the film, though, might just be this poster: