This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. Though this motion picture is in-between milestone anniversaries (those of the 0 and 5 variety, that is), I can’t help but revisit it… regularly. Good timing, too. The American Cinematheque Los Angeles will have the renowned screenwriter Robert Towne discussing this film (and its sequel) in between the double-feature screening of the movies this Saturday.
“You may think you know what you’re dealing with, but, believe me, you don’t.”
The Lido Theatre:
July 6, 1974: I had no expectations with regard to seeing Chinatown when it hit that summer. I hadn’t seen any of Roman Polanski’s films prior to this — though I overheard plenty from my aunts discussing the filmmaker ad infinitum after they’d seen Rosemary’s Baby back in ’68. They’d be more aghast in their conversations the very next year when his beautiful actress wife was murdered in our fair city. Honestly, this was foremost on my mind when I brought my date to this movie.
Besides, I was all about impressing my college girlfriend at the time. My second, but who’s counting. Dinner dates were kinda of a new thing with me back then. I’d take her to some new place — when I had the money, that is. I even took her to the French restaurant that sat atop the same building where a famed gumshoe (portrayed by James Garner) would best the then unknown heavy, Bruce Lee, in the movie Marlowe. But, taking her to a movie was still the preferred option. For me, that is.
This elegant little cinema no longer stands. In 1979, Mann Theatres, the last chain to operate it, sold the property to Bank of America, which in turn razed the theatre for another damn parking lot.
Around this time, I was haunting Hollywood and its large, famous movie palaces. To this day, I don’t know why I took my date to another part of the city — well, maybe I do now. But it was my first time there, in fact. Still, glad to find in the Lido Theatre a fine, though small (880 seat) venue. Its ornate interior making it a movie hall worth the visit. The classy, intimate setting perfect for this seminal neo-noir film. Driving home afterwards, the Polanski/Towne work, like Jerry Goldsmith’s evocative theme, would remain unforgettable.