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Drawing upon the essay, discuss also the role you think that an understanding of the past plays in imaging and shaping the future and why.

Assignment #2: Response #2 After you have watched the film and read the essay, answer this prompt:
Here is your information, resources, and assignment for week #2 of our course.

Watch the classic film about LA: Chinatown. (Follow link below)

Introduction to the film:

Roman Polanski’s classic 1974 film Chinatown is arguably the definitive Los Angeles movie. As such it makes a strong starting point for our understanding of the city. Filmed using hundred of locations across the city (a characteristic is shares with the recently released musical film LA LA Land) Chinatown is an homage to a key aspect of Los Angeles history (how water came to the virtually waterless high desert of Los Angeles) and to an important moment in LA film history (the noir films popular in the later 1930s and early 1940s).

Chinatown evokes the “noir” world of 1930s hard-boiled fiction and film, revisiting the noir trope of the private detective, or “private eye,” a character with the singular ability to “see” through and past the illusions of an often sophisticated, power-full or incriminating surface in order to detect the truth which lies beneath that surface. For both the noir tradition and depression-era Los Angeles history what lies beneath the surface is corruption and/or dysfunction. As you watch the film, pay careful attention to the many metaphors which involve “seeing.”

As a meta-fiction closely linked to the city’s history, the two fictional families intermingled by the film’s plot are very real. The Cross family represents the Otis and Chandler families: founders of the Los Angeles Times newspaper and civic boosters responsible for a driving vision of LA’s potential growth from a small, obscure, Southwest city into the massive urban heteropolis it is today. The Otis family are the founding and naming benefactors of our college. Likewise, the Mulwray family in the film represents the Mulholland family and the self-taught engineer who became LA’s chief water engineer and designed the extensive system of canals and reservoirs which diverted water resources from the up-state slopes of Owens Valley in the eastern Sierras (and later the Colorado River) and allowed the waterless chaparral of Los Angeles to become extensively irrigated.

While the story is somewhat altered in this fictional telling, the underlying truth of LA history (collapsing dams and all) is very real. The politics of water, real estate and the tremendous wealth created by the explosive expansion of our city is a story replete with greed, criminality, corruption, and even a few heroes.

Los Angeles is often described as a “city of dreams.” In Chinatown Noah Cross and Hollis Mulwray are leaders with a strong individual vision of what is right and wrong for both their families and city. In his essay, Towne critiques our urban culture as one which tears down, destroys, ignores and forgets the past.

-Drawing upon the film, write about what role you think individual vision plays in creating culture.

Talk about the risks of corruption that come with power and what you think those risks have to do with how cities change and develop, and why.

Drawing upon the essay, discuss also the role you think that an understanding of the past plays in imaging and shaping the future and why.

Finally, explain what you think the film means by the term “Chinatown” and what this term, as it is used in the film, has to do with dreams and power.

Cite at least three examples from the film or essay to support your argument. You may include images to illustrate your discussion.