I watched The Two Jakes for the first time last week. I had heard it was not very good...and sorry to say, that was my impression.
Robert Towne supposedly never finished his script...and it shows. Things don’t make sense; you can sort of guess the missing parts, but then you’re spending time trying to decipher the plot, not being immersed in the reality.
Nicholson also directed, and while he gave it his all, he looks exhausted on screen.
The movie had an insane journey to being made. You can read a bit about it a bit here.
Have I told you folks that Chinatown is my all-time favorite movie? It is. I first saw it when I was 18, in a film noir class my freshman year at college.
That was my first exposure to Polanski at the peak of his powers...and holy cow. What a formidable mind and vision—a proverbial steel trap.
The period detail is immaculate—I felt like I was actually looking at 1937—but it’s the storytelling, the total command of both the granular details and the overarching story that really made me aware of the possibilities of cinema.
I don’t mean to sound pompous or corny. It was just operating at a whole new level from anything I had ever seen. (And then I saw Rosemary’s Baby!)
I did appreciate in The Two Jakes how they put a little piece of makeup on Gittes’ nose to indicate his scar from Chinatown. (“Hold it there, kitty cat!”)
Get Sam Wasson’s book, The Big Goodbye, if you want to know more. You can also see my post from last year about my interaction with Phillip Lambro, who wrote the score to Chinatown that was replaced by Jerry Goldsmith’s.
As for The Two Jakes...it’s rather like what Chinatown might have been like without Polanski (whose uncredited rewrite of the first film made it what it is): flabby and overlong. Good, but certainly not great.
Would Polanski have settled for the obvious blue contact lenses on Meg Tilly? I don’t know, but it’s exactly the kind of thing he’d notice.
Did you know that Robert Towne had a secret cowriter throughout his career? Edward Taylor. It’s all in the Wasson book. (And a bit here.)
I saw this Deadline announcement from 2020 about a movie adaptation of The Big Goodbye, directed by Ben Affleck. It seems like the kind of thing that would get announced, but never made.
I hope it does, for Wasson’s sake. He wrote a great book!