Wesley Baucom, Staff Writer
There are movies that speak volumes across time and cultures. Films that upon viewing, leave you and your imagination scarred yet whole, leaving a deeper yearning for more of its message in our everyday lives. Beneath the slew of forgettable movies and Hollywood’s grand hypocrisy, one such film, “Chinatown,” released in 1974 and directed by infamous movie-maker Roman Polanski, still sends waves of meaning to any audience and murky situation. The year is 1937, and Los Angeles is in a deep drought, threatening the livelihoods of the entire populace. Then suddenly, the Chief Engineer of the city’s water, Hollis Mulwray, is suddenly murdered by drowning. We then follow a man, J.J. “Jake” Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson, in his unrelenting hunt for truth.
This “drought” that we as an audience are introduced to, can be applied as any sort of tense climate which affects us. Whether it be something politically, personally—or even the very climate itself. A lot could be said about the plot and themes of the movie but revealing too much would ruin the entire experience. One of Jake’s opening lines: “Let sleeping dogs lie…” haunts the entire film, as we continue to shadow the investigation of his life. Eventually we meet Mrs. Mulwray, the estranged wife of Hollis, who sets him up with the case. They both make a great team, but there’s an odd disconnect somewhere. Without spoiling anything, Mrs. Mulwray knows something, and Jake is aware she won’t tell the whole truth. And in fact, she holds the answers that the entire city cries out for. Of course, Jake knows she has the answer, and confronts her towards near the end of the movie, even slapping her to get the truth out of her.
The truth, however, was so terrible and hard, that she tried hiding it herself, so that she didn’t have to see the rippling abyss of evil that held her mouth shut for so long. They need each other— Jake needs to find the truth, and Mrs. Mulwray needs Jake to pull it out of her. It makes one wonder, what is it in our everyday lives that we need to confront? Where in our minds do we hide it? And who, besides ourselves, is so desperate for it that they need to know despite all risks?
There are many things within our own time and lives that we need to confront—-however horrible they are. Just by looking at all the headlines and how each event intersects our own paths, we may just realize that the truth has always been present—we just refuse to see it. At the risk of sounding redundant, we live in changing times, and there’s no telling what the source of our long, imminent shadows form from once it pops right around the corner. With every suggestive power I have, I urge you to take the time and watch the amazing “Chinatown,” and to finally find your own truth for yourself. Trust me, if you consider yourself any kind of movie lover, you must add this to your watchlist.