I am borderline obsessed by the films of Roman Polanski, mainly by Chinatown, and secondarily by The Tenant (best darkened cinema make-out scene ever) and Rosemary's Baby. Polanski is a master of keeping you unnerved by minor things, by use of compromising camera angles, embarrassing near-misses by main characters, and direction of his actors that is sometimes downright weird. But it all works, for he is the consummate film director.
"OK, go home, but in case you're interested, your husband was murdered. Somebody's been dumping thousands of tons of water from the city's reservoirs and we're supposed to be in the middle of a drought. He found out about it and he was killed. There's a waterlogged drunk in the morgue, involuntary manslaughter if anybody wants to take the trouble - which they don't. It seems like half the city is trying to cover it all up, which is fine by me. But Mrs. Mulwray, I goddamned near lost my nose. And I like it. I like breathing through it. And I still think that you're hiding something."
Polanski says this is one of his favorite scenes, and it's easy to see why: Jack and Faye are in profile, depth of field is fully exploited with Jack delivering the lines above whilst action in the background adds to the tension of their exchange. Sheer brilliance. As is this simple profile tracking shot of J.J. Gittes snooping on Hollis Mulwray.
And of course Polanski's casting is beyond reproach. Whoever has seen John Huston, amazing film director that he is, in the role of Noah Cross and not felt the menace he projects (especially in the scene below), must be nigh on dead.
I wish I could tie this post somehow into bikes, but I can't. I just love Chinatown.