Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Albacore Club

Inspired by a legal mini-drama that has just made my personal life more interesting, I'm now thinking of those residents of the Mar Vista nursing home--the oblivious front for the land grab that is exposed in the great Chinatown.

Knowing that a stretch of drought-stricken California farmland is going to benefit from a future diversion of water, fat cat Noah Cross buys it all up while the prices are bottoming out. Not wanting anyone to know he is the buyer, he registers the residents of the Mar Vista as the owners. The detective, Gittes, finds it particularly puzzling that one of the landowners, a Jasper Lamar Crabbe, bought his property about a week after he had passed away. Gittes pays a visit to the retirement home, which is sponsored by the Cross's own yacht club, the Albacore Club (earlier in the film, one of Gittes' eavesdropping operatives--in a nice naturalistic touch not entirely metaphor-free--hears this wrongly as "apple core.") Gittes approaches one woman, a resident who is embroidering a flag for the Albacore Club, and asks her if she realizes that she is a very wealthy woman.

The nerve of some people. Here's the script's author, Robert Towne, on how society deals with people like Noah Cross:
"Originally, I had Evelyn kill her father [and] you knew that [she] was going to have to stand trial. . .But the larger crime against the whole community went unpunished. In a sense, that was my point, that there are some crimes for which you get punished, and killing her father was a crime for which she could be punished, and so she would be. Then, there are some crimes that our society isn't equipped to punish, so we reward it. You displace a whole community and take their land and there's really nothing that's done except putting their names on a plaque at City Hall." The full interview--and it's a good one--is online.

By the way, author Alexandra Sokoloff has posted an extravagant but worthwhile, three-part analysis of Chinatown on her blog. And here is another one.

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