Chinatown/Obsession

by akordasmcm120

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Week 2:

Roman Polanski’s film Chinatown is a fine example of the quality of cinematic language and style of the 1970’s era film noir; in reference to Noel Carroll’s reading ‘The Future of Allusion: Hollywood in the Seventies (and beyond)’ one is immediately drawn to the discussion of pure cinematic values, values in which the style of filmmaking becomes a ‘substance’ on its own. Carroll argues that such allusions are structured to appeal to a certain type of cinemagoer, and that film becomes primarily a heterogeneous tissue of reference to other films. In Chinatown we see these references in visual detail, in which each scene is stylistically constructed with an intended symbolism. By the 1970’s filmic style had become an inherent component of the film conceptually as a whole, and thus in both Chinatown and Obsession we see a perpetuated and intentional illusion for the spectator and a visual mastery over the narrative. Both films evoke certain textual and visual narratives that complement one another, enhancing the relationship between the visual aspects of the film and the dialogue along with it. In terms of the visual, color becomes a paramount aspect. Carroll talks a lot about the effect and use of color in Chinatown; what would seemingly be a very mundane aspect of the film, in fact color sustains a large part of the film noir quality of the scenes in the film, adding to the suspense of the archetypal crime thriller, or as Carroll calls it ‘hard-boiled detective’. ‘The world of the hard-boiled myth is preeminently a world of black and white. Its ambience is that compound of angular light and shadow; Polanski carefully controls his spectrum of hue and tone in order to give it the feel of a film noir, but it is nonetheless color with occasional moments of rich golden light.’ In this way the film is transformed from the traditional thriller and takes on qualities that re-define space, color, and temporality that broaden the viewer’s experience.

 

 

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