Category Archives: Chinatown

Project Silverscreen: Chinatown

This week, Project Silverscreen tackles Chinatown, the 1974 Roman Polanski noir masterpiece starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. Well, “tackles” is a little inaccurate. Chinatown is barely scuffed.

I enjoyed Chinatown immensely. It’s a tightly-plotted, gritty, occasionally shocking piece of intrigue. I just don’t have much to say about it and I’m not interested in writing a conventional review. I could have compared it to a milder noir pioneer such as The Maltese Falcon or discussed the gutting twist ending, but instead I wrote some bad Jack Nicholson fan fiction. Enjoy:

“Ha,” Chinatown-era Jack Nicholson laughed mentally in his head as he gulped a big swig of his favorite alcohol and swallowed it, savoring every liquid drop. “This will cure my sobriety.”

The tiny drinking glass clinked like a solid object meeting another one that is just as solid; he had emptied it and placed it on the table. Along with the glass dropped his burden, although this did not cause a sound because it was metaphorical.

“I’m too old for this shit,” Jack growled grumpily and audibly. He was probably around 37 and had just finished shooting some of the hardest acting of his life. He felt the area of his face where his nose had been bandaged just hours ago: the application of the bandage had scared him; it was all too real and made him frightened for his nose. As he acted his character with the expertise of a chameleon, he felt Jack Nicholson begin to slip and this new soul, this oft-hatted fellow with the damaged proboscis, slip in the opposite direction. It slipped into his brain. Sometimes Jack would stare thoughtfully at various personal effects–pictures of children and dogs and wives–to regain his sanity. “I’m feeling pensive,” Jack explained loudly to no one, wanting only to hear his own voice and not the nasally one of this encroaching, bandaged persona. The pension was palpable.

Suddenly, a boom. It was a woody boom like that of a door being knocked upon. In a startled panic, he knocked his glass from the table and caused an even louder sound.

“Of course,  that’s just like me. Making loud noises.” Amused by this personal quirk, Jack accompanied another mental laugh with a visible grin.

Another boom: it dawned on him like the morning sun: that woody boom shared the exact tenor of his acting trailer’s own door!  Acting fast, he sailed o’er an obstacle and quickly reached the knob to that very door. Sweat collected on his knob-turning palm like a pool of growing anticipation. Without any input from his anxious hand, the knob began to turn and the door accordingly opened.

The man who figuratively greeted Jack on the other side seemed to hail from the land of fairies because he was thin. He dressed normally.

“Hello, Jack,” this very same man squealed, this time greeting him literally.

“Hi,” Jack responded colloquially.

The thin man smiled at the easygoing, casual nature of their rapport. “Do you know who I am, Jack?”

“Did Faye put you up to this?” Faye Dunaway was Jack’s costar in Chinatown. She enjoyed practical jokes. He did a mind chuckle again when he thought of her previous, entertaining hijinx. He imagined her naked.

“You are a dull boy, aren’t you?” the thin man humorously referenced The Shining. The reference was anachronistic. “Who is the one person in this world who knows intimately the extent of your misery? Who knows of your secret fear of acting too well? Of your penchant for making loud noises?”

“Jesus Christ,” Jack blasphemed. “You’re me.”

The thin man nodded: “From the future.” It was only then that Jack realized the familiarity of the enigmatic man’s squint. It was really uncanny and, in retrospect, pretty hard to miss. “I jog in the mornings, also,” the thin man added, explaining  his only defining trait.

“Why are you here?” Jack reasonably inquired, expecting exposition. The man chortled or snarled; Jack had never learned the distinction.

“What if I told you that your fears aren’t unfounded, Jackie? That you really are too good at acting; that your expert pretending actually fooled the fabric of reality into synthesizing an entirely new being? That this,” he paused to chortle again, “ungodly parasite knows your sleaziest growls, your narrowest squints, and seeks to employ them in your destruction? What if I continued to tell you that I’m here to deliver a crucial message?”

“This monster I’ve created: does he have a name?”

“Christian Slater.”

“And the message?” Jack bent down to pick up his glass from the trailer floor because it had fallen previously.

The envoy smirked coolly and produced sunglasses from his clothes. He put them on his face, obscuring his eyes. “I’m him.”

A series of metal bangs issued from Christian Slater’s rightmost hip. Bullets sailed forth into all of Jack’s vital organs. One of them blew off his nose, symbolically. “I guess I really am too good,” Jack grinned like a complete badass as he bled a lot. Christian Slater left and made Heathers and The Wizard.

As color drained from Jack’s face onto the white carpet, he lost himself in the prismatic depths of the overturned drinking glass and recognized the sunlit face of a beaming child.

Next week: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb