I Saw A Film!
Chinatown (1974) was a film about California water rights, some scoundrel behaviors around its redirection and misuse, and of course, the secrets kept by powerful people as they acted like privileged feudal lords. In The Two Jakes, an ostensible sequel, though, not really in terms of story.
Once again Nicholson plays Jake Gittes a small time private eye who mostly earns his money revealing adultery to a paying party. It is now the early 50s and the world has the look and sound of that just-postwar prosperity era. The main theme is that of another Jake (Harvey Keitel), who catching his wife with his business partner – aided by our Gittes – manages to produce a pistol and assassinate the fellow. A tape of the conversation between the caught adulterers reveals some interesting details about some shady business.
What follows is thugs chasing the recording, and plenty of clever details of the period. Including making sure you have enough dimes for the pay phones to get a hold of one another, and the biz of arranging housing tracts under which rich and unscrupulous oil drillers are pushing both oil and natural gas. There is only the flimsiest of connection to the original tale, but it’s not terribly important as our alliances shift from the victim of the shooting to the shooter.
The movie includes Meg Tilly and her baby-voice. Most of the ladies regularly wear veils, lacy things that should make some kind of comeback. Gittes keeps ahead of the malarkey, works out how the pistol arrived, has lots to offer in terms of mature credibility. He’s not the youngster he was in Chinatown, and manages to not only look experienced and weary, he manages enough expression in a scene to fill most other actor’s whole films. His sequences with the burned-out cops, one of them amusingly played by Tom Waits (who seems to perpetually live in the period), are some of the best such sequences of any hard-boiled style film. He especially puts David Keith (Not Keith David) on the spot with some amusement. And for once I agree with much of the hyperbole on the poster!
It’s a fairly good throw-back noir. And running free on Prime (usa).