Please join us for Chinatown (1974, 131 minutes) this Friday, July 26, at 7:00 pm in CERIA 365.

Free and open to all UNM students. Enter CERIA through the front doors by the fountain.

“It’s the Los Angeles that is at the edges of my memory: the Los Angeles before the war. It was a pastel beauty. It was slightly bleached but very beautiful and the kind of thing you took for granted. The ease of driving, stopping for a hamburger at a roadside cafe or spending time at the beach were pleasures not to be found today. They’re gone with the dragonflies that used to hover over the marshes.”

In a 2006 interview with Barbara Isenberg for the Los Angeles Times, screenwriter Robert Towne discussed the novels of John Fante and specifically Ask the Dust, which Towne spent decades adapting for the screen. Like most long-gestating dream projects in Hollywood, the resulting film is a disappointment, perhaps because Towne had already scripted the Great Los Angeles Movie as an original screenplay thirty years prior.

“Although I wasn’t born until 1934,” Towne said, “my sense memory of that time was of blinding white stucco from the sun, red tile roofs and dust in the air, because there was so little to hold it down… And the smells—the eucalyptus, the orange blossoms. You could smell the orange blossoms on the road just driving down Wilshire. You could smell the ocean from Westwood. Western was called Western because that was as far west as the city was at that time.”

Chinatown, directed by Roman Polanski (only a few years removed from the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, by members of the Manson Family and three years prior to his arrest for the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl), is a towering indictment of American exceptionalism, cynical and pessimistic and equally lavish and beautiful. Its antagonist, Noah Cross (played to the hilt by director John Huston), remains the fictional template for how to portray the abuse of power by wealthy individuals who are openly protected by officials ostensibly tasked with protecting public interests. It is a movie about the city that Robert Towne remembered as a child and read about in the novels of John Fante and realized he could only return to in a film.

This movie is a part of our “How Have You Not Seen This?” Summer Film Series, curated by Film & Digital Arts major Jodie Calhoun.

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