Film4 Summer Screen: Chinatown (1974)

on Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Film4 Summer Screen 2011: 'Chinatown' // Words: Saam Das

Having never attended any of the hallowed Film4 Summer Screen events, I was excited to be head down to Somerset House for 'Chinatown', a Roman Polanski film which I'd never seen. What's more it was crowned as "best film of all time" by The Guardian, as well as winning the Oscar for Best Picture. The stage was set.

I decided to eschew the early proceedings of the evening - which seemingly consist of listening to a DJ play music for a few hours while consuming your own packed lunch/picnic. Instead I went for a pint with fellow FG writer Kieran, hastily making our way to the venue when it approached dusk - when the film would begin.

We almost certainly should have made it down earlier to get a better spot but nonetheless we had a decent view of the screen, and an excellent close-up view of Film4's David Cox delivering a speech about our forthcoming viewing experience. He warned us about/lauded 'Chinatown''s slow burn but credit to the audience who remained resolutely silent throughout the film and as still as you can be on the slightly uncomfortable stone courtyard.

If you do attend one of the screenings next year, definitely bring along a cushion or think about shelling out. It'd do you the world of good. Not that it was so bad sitting on a stone floor for a couple of hours, particularly when you're watching Jack Nicholson being an incredibly conflicting as a smarmy yet suave private eye dragged into a wider political conspiracy.

Throw in brilliant performances from Faye Dunaway and the unsavoury John Huston, and despite the film's slow pace, it's hard not to get somewhat invested in at least one of the film's converging plotlines. I don't quite subscribe to the notion that 'Chinatown' is one the greatest films of all time yet I firmly believe it contains one of the greatest scenes ever filmed - when Nicholson's character finds out exactly who a young kidnapped lady is.

I imagine I'll be back at the Summer Screen next year, and perhaps again for a film I've never seen. There's something all the more joyous about discovering a film for the first time in such a wondrous outdoor setting. See you there with some cushions in 2012?

The Film4 Summer Screen 2011 was sponsored by American Express, as part of its Preferred Seating Programme. For more details, had to

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