“Chinatown” is one of those movies that changes every time I return to it, each time giving it some space after I see it. It is a slippery classic that represents a gorgeous collision between the studio hypergloss of the ’40s and the New Truth cinema of the ’70s, a European’s heartfelt struggle to understand the city where his chosen medium thrived and took root. I adore “Chinatown,” both as a script that refuses to compromise in the way it unveils its sad, damaged heart and as a perfectly-pitched tribute to the LA noir fiction I love so much. It’s impeccably performed, beautifully photographed, and about as good an example of what happens when everything clicks just right on a movie as I can name.
And it is finally, finally, finally coming to Blu-ray.
Like Universal, Paramount is celebrating it’s 100th year this year, and I think releasing one of the finest films the studio has ever made on the finest home video format that’s been made so far is a pretty nice way of celebrating the year. And if the only thing the disc contained was a perfectly restored high-definition print, I’d be all about that. I would happily pick one up.
But no. No, they’ve gone all out, and in a stroke of genius on the part of somebody, the film features a commentary track by the screenwriter of the film, one of the Titans of the ’70s, Robert Towne. And, while that also is reason enough by itself without adornment to buy the disc, that’s not all. Nope. The commentary is by Robert Towne… AND… David Fincher.
You don’t make movies the way Fincher makes movies if you aren’t a movie freak on some deep genetic level. And I think the best filmmakers are also people who I like hearing talk about movies. Not their own films, per se, but movies in general. They have strong opinions that they don’t often share in public, so a commentary track like this becomes a real treat. I can only imagine what sort of love Fincher must have for a film as precise and as black-hearted as “Chinatown,” and he and Towne should make a fascinating pair.
There’s also a big three-part documentary that contains, in part, Towne taking a tour of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and instead of being a making-of documentary on the film, that instead is the kick into a documentary about Los Angeles and the way its history has been defined by water. Then there’s yet another piece that’s an appreciation of the film, built around interviews with Steven Soderbergh, Roger Deakins, Kimberly Pierce, and James Newton Howard. There is a behind-the-scenes piece, another about the way the film starts and ends, and even more beyond that.
This is reason to be excited, and I am absolutely rabid now about that commentary track. And the best part? They’re using the actual one-sheet for the cover:
Love that art. Love the movie. April 3, 2012 can’t get here fast enough.