The Two Jakes (1990)
Wednesday 24th February
The Earl of Essex presents this sequel to Chinatown (1974), one of the most iconic and much studied movies of all time. Where Chinatown was set in LA of the 1930s, here the action has moved on to the post-war 1940s, with Jack Nicholson's private eye Jake Gittes now running a team of investigators.
In Chinatown what starts as a classic low-rent adultery case reveals immorality and corruption at such high levels that it is not something Gittes can fix: he is simply granted a glimpse of the lies and greed at the core of the system. Here Gittes is still haunted by his experiences then, and the film is less a genre detective story and more a meditation on guilt and motive. The second Jake is property developer Jake Berman (Harvey Keitel) who fears his wife is having an affair with his partner, but Gittes's attempt to help him get the photographic evidence he needs for the divorce court soon turns messy.
The screenplay is by Robert Towne, who also wrote (and received an Oscar for) Chinatown, but instead of Roman Polanski the director here is Nicholson himself. The film was seven years in the making thanks to studio problems (it was meant to be made in 1985), but critic Roger Ebert called it at the time "such a focused and concentrated film that every scene falls into place like clockwork". Towne actually intended it as the second of a trilogy, with the final film, Gittes vs. Gittes set in 1968 and dealing with Jake's own divorce, but this movies has, to date, not be made.