Chinatown Locations, Dick Sylbert

Written by Joe D on July 23rd, 2007

I’m posting scans of an article from the July 8th, 1999 LA Times that comemorated the 25th anniversary of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. The article talks about the locations used in the film and why Dick Sylbert chose them. It’s interesting for several reasons, you get to see where the actual locations are or were in 1999. Go out and look them up, drive around LA on your own Chinatown tour. Also you get a glimpse into why Sylbert made certain creative decisions, that Jake Gittes had to constantly go up to a location, it was an uphill climb, a struggle, a pursuit. The psychology of a courtyard bungalow apartment complex. The thought behind the choice. Dick was an intellectual and a lot of thought and personal logic, creative interpretation went into his designs. I read an article on the designs he did for Francis ( the film about Frances Farmer starring Jessica Lange), Dick had created a visual equivalent to certain classical music forms that he felt played like the emotional arcs of the story. Incredible stuff. Polanski said about Chinatown, “Robert Towne had this thing about Los Angeles, about the history of the city, and that’s what makes it so profound. Without that, you would just have another detective thing.” And Dick Sylbert found the places to make it work. He made Los Angeles a character in Chinatown. Below is a .pdf of the entire article.

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