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FILM CLUB: Chinatown

Thursday, April 8 @ 5:30 pm6:30 pm

This program is reserved for members of the Athenæum. Attendees are invited to participate in a guided discussion on selected films.

Cinephile Steve Coon explores the neo-noir Chinatown (1974; Roman Polanski).

Chinatown represents both a continuation and an extensive rethinking of the American film noir. The film was a commercial and critical success, propelled by Hollywood film artists working at the very top of their games. An imaginative retelling of actual events set in Los Angeles in 1937, the story takes traditional genre elements of murder, sex, and corruption, and pushes them unselfconsciously in the direction of Sophoclean tragedy.

Discussion points will include the following:
– Discuss how Chinatown both conforms to and diverges from traditional American film noir.
– Consider the importance of setting (Los Angeles in 1937) as foundational to the story.
– Trace how the unfolding “mysteries” in the film are presented, brought to light, and resolved.
– Identify specific visual elements, images, and motifs in the film that support and deepen the story.
– Compare the contemporary events of the story with deep sources rooted in Greek tragedy.

The film is available to rent and stream online on many platforms including HuluGoogle PlayPrimeYou TubeVudu, and more.


Steve Coon is a past Board Director of the Providence Athenæum. He has led many reading groups at the library since 2012, including the current group “More French Kisses.” Steve studied comparative literature at the University of California at Irvine and Brown University. He retired in 2015 from a business career in strategy consulting and corporate strategy. He has been a devoted film enthusiast since his childhood.