RICHARD LUTZ strolls through the TV listings to find the film you cannot miss this week.
Look out. Set the record for the heart of the tube. This is it.
Two of the best films in the past six decades both roar through your tv this Friday and overlap a bit. Both reflect Los Angeles noir. Both are classics.
So careful with that remote Eugene. Get ready to permanently slap both all over the hard drive.
First up is probably the best neo-noir film since WW2. Chinatown (Fri, actually Sat 1.15 am, Ch4) re creates that moody intense Chandleresque feel from the 1930’s. But not in back and white with Marlowe, Dick Powell or Veronica Lake.
But in sombre colour with with Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and, in one of the last roles, John Huston.
it was directed 40 years ago by Roman Polanski- a man who may have a creepy nasty side to him in real life, it has to be said, but can make things zing behind a camera.
It is Nicholson’s finest appearance. He tried to re create his role as JJ Gittes in the sequel The Two Jakes and failed… so proving that you can’t grab lightning in a jar twice.
The plot twists and turns- I will simply say that down on his luck sleazo private eye Nicholson is asked by a sultry blonde to find her missing daughter. He gets mixed in up in some pretty troubling family affairs, warfare over water rights and a couple of murders. It all ends…well, it keeps you pretty well sitting on the edge of your seat ‘tll the final 30 seconds which grinds to a halt with a fat slob cop telling Nicholson: ‘Don’t worry about it, Gittes. It’s Chinatown.’
What a film. And Huston is evil.
Hollywood has often tried- and sometime succeeded-in re-creating this downbeat LA lowlife world that is defined loosely as noir. Chris Nolan’s LA Confidential with Danny deVito and Kim Basinger was good. So was (in a freaky-deaky way) David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.
But Chinatown is the template. By faithfully realising a ‘feel’, it has created its own genre- neo-noir.
Nicholson is LA with a hangover, a gun and a sliced up nose. LA is a trampled down tart with ice in the blood and blood on her hands.
Trivia alert: The greasy little gangster that attacks Nicholson with a knife is played by Roman Polanski.
Now..a matter of couch potato conflict, so be careful. Earlier in the evening (or rather late on Friday night) is another slice of noir Los Angeles. This time by that ultimo family clan of the Coen Brothers. Their 1998 hit The Big Lebowski (Fri, 11.05, ITV4) is funny, funny, funny.
Funny in a smokey big-fat-joint-of-weed kind of way.
The brothers take the mad unravellings of a second rate B movie crime caper and basically take the mickey out of it. There are two Jeff Lebowski’s, you see, and one is a pot-head bowling nut and the other a millionaire with a missing girlfriend and they..well, what happens is…
Actually, the plot makes no sense and there are anarchists, Latino bowlers, a Vietnam vet, kidnappers and a girl with a missing toe. Also great music
Jeff Bridges creates a comic role that has gone down so well, so successfully, that there is a fucking bar in Edinburgh called The Big Lebowski. I mean how c-o-o-o-o-l is that?