Re: RARA-AVIS: Whoa there, fellas

Tue, 21 Dec 1999 20:52:03 -0800 (PST)

All this talk of THE TWO JAKES gave me an excuse to pull out my copy and watch it again. While I will agree that it's no CHINATOWN (and please tell me what is) I will also agree that it is VERY underrated. I can think of many thousands of films I would rate far below TWO JAKES on a WORST OF list. Unlike Martha I had no problem with the "twist" of who Catherine Mulwray was. I barely even saw it as a twist, let alone
"ludicrous and unbelievable." (Evelyn's secret is far more amazing in CHINATOWN.)

I love the sense of post war L.A. Great atmosphere. Wardrobe, production design, and photography are not only top rate, but qualify as American Art. I'm surprised it didn't pick up award nominations in those categories. Van Dyke Park's music isn't quite up to Goldsmith's original score and Towne's work also falls short of the high water mark he set with CHINATOWN. But the biggest blame for whatever shortcomings of JAKES rests with Jack. As a director, not an actor.

Nicholson's direction is overly cautious and this leads to a general feeling that there is a lack of focus. He takes his sweet time laying it all out, dropping pieces of the puzzle in sometimes miniscule increments, but the final moments of the film play as a fantastic coda to all that has come before and the entire movie displays a Ross McDonald-like obsession with the past that is quite satisfying. The last thirty seconds of the film remind me of a great book that reveals its true nature in the last paragraph, altering and enhancing your feelings of all you have witnessed up to that point. (I hope that makes sense.) By Jove, it's almost EUROPEAN!

It's too bad that the bitterness between Towne, Evans, and Nicholson and the lackluster boxoffice performance of TWO JAKES will probably keep us from ever seeing the third installment of this proposed trilogy. I'd love to see what Jake gets up to in the fifties.

The bigger sin is that JAKES got cancelled in 1985 when Towne was directing it. Now THAT'S a film I'd pay big money to see.

All in all, I thought JAKES was a noble if somewhat confused effort. Well worth revisiting every few years. Certainly a fine entry in the very limited P.I. genre of the last twenty years. Not much has given CHINATOWN a run for its money since 1975. TWO JAKES gives it a shot. It falls short, but at least they tried.


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