Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” is a perfect film — and that is a rarity. Despite being released 40 years ago (1974), it feels neither dated or irrelevant. Instead, screenwriter Robert Evans’ dense tapestry encompassing a hard-nosed (later, cut-nosed) detective (Jack Nicholson), a mysterious woman (Faye Dunaway), and an intimidating developer (John Huston) capable of life-destroying evil feels breathtakingly fresh.
It would be a treat to see the film now for the first time, unaware of the complexities to come, and perhaps some of these viewers will make up the audience at the Screening Room Cinema Cafe’s three showings, at 7:30 p.m. on May 16, 17, and 20. For “Chinatown” veterans, of course, there is still much to chew on; it is especially fun to watch the film with an awareness of the tension that washed over the set.
My favorite story? Probably the “Polanski plucks a stray strand of Dunaway’s hair” tale, recounted (with significant bias, I’m sure), by the director in 1984’s memoir “Roman by Polanski”:
“Faye, who can swear like a teamster truck driver, was having a fit. ‘I don’t believe it!’ she screeched. ‘I just don’t believe it!’ ... Her hysterics were earsplitting, obscene, and only in their early stages.”
Interesting that Polanski changed Evans’ original ending, in which Cross died and Dunaway’s Evelyn Mulwray lived, for one in which — 40-year-old spoiler alert! — the director’s off-camera combatant ended up with a bullet-hole in the eye.
In other outside-of-the-multiplex news, the lovely Fredonia Opera House screens one of early-2014’s finest films, Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel,” at 7:30 p.m. May 13, and the poorly received “Amazing Spider-Man 2” runs in Hamburg’s Palace Theatre through May 15.
Hallwalls presents “A Close Read: Readings & Short Films in Tribute to Steve Street” at 7:30 p.m. May 15. Street, an adjunct professor at SUNY Buffalo State College who passed away in 2012, was an ambitious author of short stories, and this free event features readings of some of his work.
The evening also will include screenings of “Dear Steve,” an animated film created by Street’s brother Mark, and a five-minute interview with him conducted by sister-in-law Lynne Sachs, also a filmmaker.
– Christopher Schobert