Watching the movie Chinatown for our History In Film Assignment was truly enjoyable. This movie was my favorite out of the three movies we have watched so far. I believe that the film brings to light some interesting aspects of the era that did not immediately come to my mind when I thought about the 1970s.
The movie Chinatown was released in 1974 and therefore coincided with the time period of the Watergate Scandal that shocked the American public and discovered corruption even at the level of the American president. In the movie we can also see various instances of corruption and how they influence the various people involved, as well as the entire city. In the film, the city’s distribution of water is highly corrupt, as the water department is controlled entirely by Mr. Cross, who is depriving the city of water by limiting the amount of water they may receive. In addition, the region’s farmers suffer significantly because some of them do not find their fields irrigated, while others in more power and a higher social status receive the water they need. Overall, the corruption is covered up on multiple levels of the city bureaucracy. When the private investigator Mr. Giddes attempts to uncover the scandal, several people, including the police, stop him from doing so. The sentence in the film that stood out most to me was “Don’t try… He owns the police” (Mrs. Mulray talking to Mr. Giddens, referring to her father). This sentence really shows that with the right amount of money and connection, one can really turn a city or the law in one’s favor. Generally, the movie’s portrayal of corruption can be related to other instances of corruption of the era such as the Watergate scandal and corruption in various other departments.
In addition, while watching the movie I was also somewhat surprised or better to say outraged by Chinatown’s portrayal of people of Chinese descent or ethnicity. The movie was full of racial stereotypes and portrayed Chinese people as inferior in intellect, as unable to speak English, and of a lower social class. Throughout the movie, Chinese people were only seen as servants, never actually spoke a line, and were just bossed around by their employers or average American public.
Apart from the negative portrayal of Chinese people, the movie Chinatown was enjoyable to watch because it had a certain amount of suspense. The viewer is really intrigued to find out who is behind the murder of Mr. Mulray.