Why not spend an evening – a long one at that – with two movies on just about everyone’s Top Ten List? Certainly they occupy that status among crime movies. Both films were released in the 1970s. Both were critically acclaimed and represent two of the world’s most famous directors’ work at the top of their games.
Chinatown — Put this classic in the categories of P.I. films and film noir. A fresh-faced Jack Nicholson plays an L.A. private investigator who finds himself in in the midst of an embarrassing family sexual abuse scandal and inadvertently drawn into a battle about water in a desert in 1937. When only recently the CEO of Nestle, whose products line most of the shelves of your local supermarket, claimed water is not a human right, Chinatown proves itself a timeless reflection of the eternal struggle of greed on behalf of the powerful few versus survival of the rest. John Huston represents the ugliness of pure greed — determined to get whatever he wants at whatever the cost. Directed by Roman Polanski and released in 1974, this film also featured Faye Dunaway, James Hong and Diane Ladd. Robert Towne wrote the screenplay.
The Godfather — As I watched it for the umpteenth time I was again reminded of how much the film seemed to be a series of moving oil paintings, rather than mere moving pictures. John A. Alonzo is credited with the astounding cinematography. He is probably the least known of the masters working together on this film. Based on Mario Puzo’s blockbuster novel, master director Francis Ford Coppola created a film judged by the U.S. National Film Registry as one of the greatest American films of all time, exceeded only by Citizen Cane. Marlon Brando is the godfather. Al Pacino is the favored son. Both are riveting. The entire cast is stellar: James Caan, Sterling Hayden, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Richard Conte, and Abe Vigoda. Keep your eye out for other surprises, Al Martino and Morgana King, for example. The film’s story — about a major crime family unfolds over a ten-year period starting in 1945.
While Chinatown is a perfect mystery that delivers a socially conscious and powerful punch, The Godfather is delivered on a larger and richer canvas. Settle in for a classic double feature.
To accompany the long evening (Chinatown runs more than two hours while The Godfather is nearly three), I’d suggest having a Tom Collins with Chinatown in honor of Faye Dunaway’s character. Sip the cocktail slowly and then open a bottle of Nero D’Avola, a dry Sicilian wine, for The Godfather. Non-imbibers could do the Virgin Tom Collins, that is make the cocktail, but forget the gin.