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When the Movies MatteredThe New Hollywood Revisited$
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Jonathan Kirshner and Jon Lewis

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501736094

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501736094.001.0001

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Cinematic Tone in Polanski’s Chinatown

Cinematic Tone in Polanski’s Chinatown

Can “Life” Itself Be “False”?

(p.115) Chapter 7 Cinematic Tone in Polanski’s Chinatown
When the Movies Mattered

Robert Pippin

Cornell University Press

Chinatown, a landmark of the New Hollywood, successfully recreates and revises the classic film noir milieu. Setting the film in the Los Angeles of the late nineteen-thirties, the aptness of such a setting for the United States of the nineteen-seventies is intentionally suggested. But the film’s creation of such a noir tonality is so successful that it raises the question of whether the unambiguous and profound evil present in the film suggests a world gone wrong—so wrong that no “right” action in such a world is conceivable. This chapter will examine what it would mean to suggest the wrongness of an entire way of life, what is responsible for such wrongness, and what it suggests about the possibility (or impossibility) of any right action in such a world.

Keywords:   Chinatown, New Hollywood, Film Noir, Neo-Noir

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