Directing himself for the second time. Jack Nicholson returns as private eye Jake Cities in Chinatown‘s long-awaited but much-troubled sequel, The Two lakes. Trevor Johnston looks at what went wrong -
‘Forget it. Jake. lt's (‘hinatownf Surely one of the most famous movie lines of the 711s. these words tnust even now be haunting leading man Jack Nicholson. screenwriter Robert 'l‘owne and producer Robert livans. the trio ofcreative talents who came together to fulfil constant demands for a sequel to 1974‘s endlessly admired I.A corruption chronicle ('hinarolt'n. but in so doing watched their dream project fall apart at the moment of fruition.
labyrinthine of plot. immensely refined in 411s visual style, (‘hinaroli'n‘s portrait of down-at-hcel private eye .lake (iittes cemented the Hollywood reputations of the principals involved. but the arc of many of their fortunes has altered considerably over the intervening period. The post-Barman Jack Nicholson's star may be at an all-time zenith. but director Roman Polanski has not returned to the US since 1977 after his arrest on statutory rape charges. and producer livans‘ standing took a substantial dive over the financial disaster of The ('orron (lid) and lingering speculation linking his investment sources with the murder ill 1983 of entrepreneur Ray Radin.
After losing control of his 1982 directorial debut.. the lesbian athletics romance Personal Best and replacing his screen credit on (ireysroke with his pet dog‘s pedigree title. the only trump card that writer Towne had left to play was his script for the
INDEX: 26 LISTINGS 33
( 'hl'naroit'n sequel. The Th'o lakes. intended as the middle section of a proposed LA trilogy. Set after WWII. with (iittes by now a successful divorce operator. echoes of the past would come to the surface as a routine infidelity investigation turns into a tnurder case implicating real estate developer Jake Berman. Signing a deal with Paramount in 1985. Towne was also to direct what proved to be a frustrated initial attempt at getting the story on screen. an enterprise which foundered on the first days of shooting when Robert Evans. unlikely casting in front ofthe camera in the part of Berman. refused to relinquish the role after 'l‘ownc realised it wasn‘t working out. Result: shooting stops and the studio write off four million dollars in production costs.
Yet like a veritable Tinseltown Lazarus. the project was to rise again. Once the Batman moolah had begun to cascade in. any picture that .lack Nicholson wanted to make became a hot item. So strong was industry faith in all things Jack that in September 1988 Paramount again signed a deal to make The Two Jakes, this time with the proviso that Nicholson take over direction as well as reprising his portrayal of (iittes. As production shifted into gear. livans moved back into at producing role and Harvey Keitel was cast as the
second Jake. According to industry insiders. Townc was at first happy to work with Nicholson
on revising the script. but after a certain point in ‘ mid-1989. removed himself to the Pacific island of
' Bora Bora to concentrate on writing Days of
Initial buzz was certainly not good when the US release date was pushed back twice to August 1990. and even though the Nicholson marque is rarely associated with failure. given the taxing.
' oblique. yet finally unsatisfying nature of the final
product. it hardly came as a huge surprise that box office returns were very poor. In terms of foreign distribution. United International Pictures in the UK press-showed the picture in the autumn of last 'year to lukewarm response and it looked as though a straight-to-vidco trip was the only viable response remaining until risk-taking independent outfit Blue Dolphin decided to sub-lease the film in Britain and put it out on the arthouse circuit themselves. In the circumstances. it makes sense. for whatever its faults (and there are many) The Two Jakes is still a film the self-respecting cineaste has to see.
The Two lakes opens on Friday 2 7 [)(’(‘ a! the ( 'ameo, Edinburgh.
_ FILMS 0F1991
Terminator 2, Dances With Wolves, ' Robin Hood, Thelma & Louise, l Godfather 3, The Fisher King, Cyrano , de Bergerac. Yes, none of them are in my top ten for the year despite their high box-office profile and occasional critical endorsement, for what 1991 meant to me in terms of celluloid runs as follows. A very personal view, I guess. In alphabetical order, then: Boyz N The Hood (John Singleton) — Brave, powerful, moving, all without
undue histrionics. And he’s still only
i The Commitments (Alan Parker) For
making me laugh uncontrollably, and not being too patronising or too overstated while it was at it.
The Hairdresser‘s Husband (Patrice Leconte) — Woollen bathing trunks, Arab music, shampoo. It shouldn’t work, really, but then Leconte absolutely knows what he‘s about. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (John ; McNaughton) For treating seriously material that’s usually turned into trash and in so doing asking us to question why we watch and/or even make
§ 0h Aki, we love you.
movies in the first place. ‘ 3 l Hired A Contract Killer (Aki ; Kaurismaki) - We love you Aki, we do.
Miller's Crossing (The Coens) An
amazing script, a cynical worldview, real filmmaking bravura. And that’s before you even get to the ‘Dannv Bov' I Demme) _ Thankful indication that,
Proof (Jocelyn Moorhouse) A tad
! which Greenaway puts new technology g aside, it’s remarkable that he found an j approach to the text that works both as 1 an intriguing interpretation in its own i right and as a working through of the l director’s familiar aesthetic concerns. I The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan
E given the most extraordinary i chemistry, a mainstream Hollywood
schematic perhaps. but it's an obiect ; thriller can still chill the audience lesson in exploring universal emotions without insulting its intelligence,
from the most singular of vantage points. Prospero’s Books (Peter Greenaway) The extraordinary resourcefulness to
5 Toto The Hero (Jaco Van Dormael) It's
A Wonderful Life for curmudgeons. A classic.
. (Trevor Johnston)
0N FOLLOWING PAGES: BILL AND TED O MATADOR O V. I. WARSHAWSKI
The List 20 December 1391 — i 63381113). 1992 23