Thursday, September 25, 2014

STORY OF A PROSTITUTE (1965) &
FIGHTING ELEGY (1966) - Seijun Suzuki



Sometime during his four-movie-a-year (and mostly yakuza-driven) indentured servitude with Nikkatsu Studios, Suzuki turned out these two uncharacteristically serious anti-military films based on novels and, no doubt, enriched significantly by his own wartime experiences. I had planned on skipping them, suspecting they might be lesser Seijun efforts (despite their Criterion Collection pedigree). Boy, am I glad I didn't. There are multitudinous treasures to be found in both.

Prostitute is, yes, a story about a military prostitute (or "comfort woman") at a Japanese encampment who has the great misfortune to be the favored leisure lady of a sadistic local adjutant. Though she frequently fantasizes about ripping him to shreds-- literally, in a Michel Gondry-esque sequence that sees him as a floating paper doll torn in half--Harumi doesn't give into despair or drug abuse like some of her co-workers but rests her hopes in a love affair with his meek assistant, Mikami. They manage to keep their liaisons hush-hush until Mikami is captured by the Chinese, at which point she prevents him from killing himself, apparently the expected Japanese custom in such a predicament.

After he's returned and court-martialed by his own troops and she's returned to the brothel, Harumi continues to "keep hope alive," fighting the good fight with a force of will far superior to that of any of the guys in uniform. Suzuki has made a film about a comfort woman, true, but also a strong woman (definitely the strongest in any of his movies I've seen). It's too bad she attaches her future (and, literally, herself in a tragic climax) to a man who's her inferior in almost every sense.


Though Suzuki reverts to black and white (probably by budgetary decree) for this one, there is style here to burn--no Technicolor required. Sumptuous slow-slow motion sequences abound. Stark desert framings pop. Tumultuous tracking shots (like the one above) astonish.

"Oh, Michiko, I will not masturbate.
I fight to sublimate my desires."

Did I say both of these flicks were uncharacteristically serious? OK, I may have overstated just a tad. Fighting Elegy, filmed a year later, definitely boasts its fair share of absurdist humor. Any movie about a teenager so desperate to resist the temptation to flog the bishop that he routinely engages in playground warfare (and, later, actual warfare) to tamp it down can't be but so poker-faced. It's not American Pie exactly (or Nippon Pie?), but there were a few scenes where I felt like I might be watching Seijun Suzuki's Stripes. Playing "Chopsticks" on a piano with your unzipped pee-pee? Engaging in rapid-fire haiku to drown out the image of your naked girlfriend? Yes, Fighting Elegy features both.

Actually, Catholic military school cadet Kiroku's boner-suppressing antics and latent brutality reminded me a lot of another ultraviolent fascist-in-training to come several years later. I'm talking Kubrick's Alex DeLarge. Extreme sexual repression as fervent militaristic motivator..check and check. The difference here is it's mostly self-imposed. Though Kiroku isn't forced by scientists to wear eye clamps and gag while watching snuff films, his severely regimented schooling definitely has a blunting effect that similarly backfires on his superiors/captors later on.

Though the lifeblood of Elegy is scathing anti-war satire, Suzuki does manage to innovate in other more visual ways. There's a great sequence in a school room where the cadets' call-and-response chant with their instructor reaches such a fever pitch that the screen itself begins to break apart, Suzuki flagging/eclipsing portions of the frame in time to the recitation. And, speaking of barriers, there's the perfect close-up of Kiroku and his lady love puncturing a partition screen (below) to touch hands before parting for good. Sadly for this young pent-up soldier, it's the most "action" he's likely to see anytime soon, apart from the battlefield.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DETECTIVE BUREAU 2-3: GO TO HELL, BASTARDS!
& YOUTH OF THE BEAST (1963) - Seijun Suzuki


According to Wikipedia, the clumsily named yakuza-cop programmer Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell, Bastards! is one of a handful of Seijun Suzuki's movies with the word "bastard" in its title. This is probably the only one of those bastards I'll ever see, unless someone's got handy YouTube links to The Bastard and Stories of Bastards that I've overlooked (if so, please send!). But more important than the fatherlessness of it all is that this is earliest Jo Shishido-Suzuki pairing I'm likely to find...unless someone's got tracks on Voices Without A Shadow, their actual first collaboration (again, please send if so!). That fact alone made it worthwhile late night viewing, even if the flick itself was a bit "chaste" by Suzuki standards.


Shishido plays a freelance detective who goes undercover for the police as a yakuza to try to get information on warring rival bosses. Light intrigue ensues. There's some amusing business with yakuza clans fumbling over each over to kill an informant who's just been released from prison. Better still, a Joe Shishido song and dance number!


Apart from the soft shoe, you might be better served sticking to Youth of the Beast, their later collaboration the same year. The plot is nearly identical (Shishido's a disgraced ex-cop going undercover among warring clans to unravel a friend's murder), but this is the first Suzuki where he really starts to upturn the crime genre, hit his stride style-wise. The color palettes and compositions get bolder (check it, above). And Jo gets to be a REAL BASTARD this time, indiscriminately beating up 'hoods, bedding chorus girls, even casually setting his boss' crewcut on fire. Watched back to back, you get the feeling Suzuki went: "Didn't I just make this same movie three months ago? Fuck it...I'm going to mix things up."


Bastards is a serviceable primer, but Beast is the real deal. It's devil-may-care swagger hints at, perhaps, the finest Suzuki to come a few years later (definitely the best Suzuki-Shishido). Its name? Far less cumbersome...Branded to Kill.

Friday, September 12, 2014

EVERYTHING GOES WRONG (1960) - Seijun Suzuki


SPOILER ALERT: The title of this movie is also the last line of the film (or very close to it). Yes, it's THAT kind of movie, a jazzy juvenile delinquent picture that takes itself too seriously when it's not be-bopping casually to the latest pop tune. In other words, kind of like your average teenager.

This teenager, Jiro, happens to be haunted by his soldier father's death during the war and miffed that Mom's taken a new lover...namely, a wealthy industrialist who made the same tanks that got Dad killed. So he does what any teen in these pictures (in any language) would do-- he acts out, steals cars, smokes, drinks, generally treats the young ladies in his life poorly, with a mixture of unbridled lust and out-of-the-blue contempt. Call it Kamikaze Without A Cause.

I'll admit, this is not one of my favorite Suzuki's. My attention drifted throughout, even though it's quite short. But it was interesting to see a director known for his irony and free-form existential style working in a more earnest and at times melodramatic format. And both actors playing the young lovers are quite likable though they try hard not to be. It gets better as it goes along but probably should have ended at a spot few minutes earlier (hint: it involves a car crash). Because the scene directly afterwards where the movie title is dropped like a lead anvil in the dialogue reeks suspiciously of a studio-mandated coda.

Then again, I could be wrong. I mean, everything else is, right?

TAKE AIM AT THE POLICE VAN (1960) - Seijun Suzuki


I think it's safe to say that this early Nikkatsu noir programmer will never fall prey to the Hollywood remake machine. Who today would buy a prison security guard (generally not that highly paid) taking the initiative to investigate the prison van sniper shooting that got him suspended for six months but doing his amateur sleuthing entirely on his own, entirely without pay and at great risk to his own safety? In this economy? Yeah, I think he'd probably just leave it to the warden, then head down to his local Starbucks for a job application and a latte. The fact that this mild mannered guard goes Columbo/Dirty Harry without his friend/brother/sister/child being killed in the crossfire...well, it almost seems quaint.

And Take Aim, by later Suzuki style standards, is rather quaint. It's one of his pre-color, pre-"crazy" B pictures a few years before he started bucking harder against genre conventions and the studio brass. There are, however, some inspired compositions, some interesting business with bows and arrows (see below), a better than average trainyard climax. The plot might be a little needlessly convoluted for a movie less than 80 minutes. That said, in that short run time rarely was I bored.

Go ahead, Take Aim...but maybe after you've seen a few other Suzuki classics first.


Monday, September 01, 2014

SEPTEMBER SUZUKI


I've chirped endlessly on this blog over the years about legendary B-movie director Seijun Suzuki, his wild color pallettes, his wilder plotlines and those he's influenced. Mostly here.

This September, I will catch up on a few of the Suzuki works I haven't seen. And probably chirp a whole lot more.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

UNDER THE SKIN (2013) - Jonathan Glazer


THE FEMME: Hard to say...no name, no identifiable planet, we're not even 100% sure she's a woman (under her skin). Definitely a lady on the outside though. DEFINITELY. Let's call her "Her" (Scarlett Johansson).

THE FALL GUY: Every single pedestrian male in Scotland. Whatever you do, don't stop for that black cube truck!

HER MOTIVATIONS: Never really explained. We'll assume it's the standard issue sci-fi motivation...harvesting human specimens for some faraway planet. Male specimens, specifically. Like foraging for fat truffles with XY chromosomes.

HER MANIPULATIONS: A mangy fur coat. Fire engine red lipstick. Blank stare. Limbo lighting. An accomplice on a motorbike. Absolutely no inhibitions (at least for the first half of the movie). Zero concern for the welfare of small children. A black pool of death from which no nude man with an erection doth return.

SEXINESS SCALE: 7 (out of 10). It's Scotland. It's Scarlett Johansson. The sexiness is all relative.

BITCH INDEX: Low (Threat Level Green). It's hard to call a computer a "bitch." Scar-Jo's m.o. in this film is not particularly malicious or vindictive. She seems to be just following her programming. Also, it's insinuated she has soft-spot for male humans with disfigurements.

BODY COUNT: Countless. The movie gives no clues as to how long She's been doing this.

LINE TO DIE BY: "You've got beautiful hands. Would you like to touch me?"

POST-MORTEM: Hard to call Under the Skin any kind of noir (alien noir?), but Johansson's character is definitely a fatal lady, a femme that learns human empathy a little too late. Call it The Woman Who Fell to Earth. Eight months in, I'm calling it my favorite film of the year.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (2014) - Robert Rodriguez


THE FEMME: Ava Lord (Eva Green), unabashed nudist and wife of wealthy tycoon Damian Lord.

THE FALL GUY: Dwight, some guy who used to be Clive Owen in a better movie but is now Josh Brolin with a crewcut in an inferior one.

HER MOTIVATIONS: Certainly not money...she already has plenty of money. Boredom, diversion, maybe?

HER MANIPULATIONS: Unsubstantiated claims of physical abuse by husband and chauffeur Manute (Dennis Haysbert). Wearing the only sparkling blue dress in a otherwise black and white film. Lies, lies, lies all the time. Even more nudity than the lies. Frequently appearing sopping wet, fresh from the bathtub, spa and/or swimming pool.

SEXINESS SCALE: 10 (out of 10). It's Eva Green. Did you see The Dreamers? Casino Royale? Need I say more?

BITCH INDEX: Severe (Threat Level Red). Green's character toys with everyone around her like a bored child burning the wings off bugs with a magnifying glass. And Green herself seems to be toying with this movie, knowing it doesn't deserve her. She uses her non-stop nudity like a weapon...to make the viewer feel undressed. And she's definitely done her noir homework.

BODY COUNT: Only one directly by hand...chauffeur Manute.

LINE TO DIE BY: ??? (I've forgotten most of them...for a hardboiled noir with wall-to-wall voiceover, this movie is curiously unquotable)

POST-MORTEM: There's only one reason to see this tired sequel. Or 300: Rise of an Empire for that matter. It's the Green...not the green screen.

THE COUNSELOR (2013) - Ridley Scott


THE FEMME: Malkina (Cameron Diaz), twin cheetah owner and scheming wife of wealthy drug dealer Reiner (Javier Bardem).

THE FALL GUY: Judging by the eventual ramifications of her cross-border drug seizing plan, everyone else in the movie.

HER MOTIVATIONS: Money and the sport of it all. Brad Pitt's money especially.

HER MANIPULATIONS: Sexual acrobatics atop sports car hoods that put even Tawny Kitaen to shame. Full body cheetah tattoos to match her twin cheetah pets. Gaudy jewelry. A bad dye job. Unsolicited sex talks with ladyfriends. Making lurid confessions in Catholic churches just for kicks.

SEXINESS SCALE: 3 (out of 10). Any major actress other than Diaz, and this could have been an easy 10. Especially given the car hood hijinks.

BITCH INDEX: High (Threat Level Orange). If her plan with the highway tripwire and drug cache interception had worked all the way through, then maybe a Threat Level Red. But using the "bolita" device on Brad Pitt...yeah, that's pretty bitchy. So we'll leave it at orange.

BODY COUNT: Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Green Hornet biker guy, a few of her paid thugs. But Michael Fassbender gets away "Scott-Free"...sort of.

LINE TO DIE BY: "To see quarry killed with elegance, it's moving to me."

POST-MORTEM: The script's all there. Maybe too much there. Some of Cormac McCarthy's philosophical tangents and difference-between-the-sexes diatribes are kinda brilliant, others antiquated howlers. Either way, Ridley Scott is too humorless a director to know the difference. He's all wrong for this flick. And Diaz...though she can do comedy, she doesn't do much for this movie other than polish Bardem's windshield. Brilliantly.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

THE ICE HARVEST (2005) - Harold Ramis


THE FEMME: Sweet Cage strip club owner Renata Crest (Connie Nielson).

THE FALL GUY: Crooked mob lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack).

HER MOTIVATIONS: Impending foreclosure of her club, compromising photos of a local politician, a strong yearning to escape her iced-over Wichita town. Which all is to say...$$$. See that little pile of cash next to her in the photo? She needs more of that. A LOT more of that.

HER MANIPULATIONS: Small town sex appeal, an indeterminate accent, the fact that she is perhaps the only woman in this town (i.e., this movie) who is neither a stripper or someone's frigid ex-wife. Renata is a businesswoman, dammit!

SEXINESS SCALE: 7 (out of 10). It gets awful cold in Wichita in the winter, especially during a Christmas ice storm. When there's no fireplace or spiked egg nog around, Renata is just the type of cozy flame you want to snuggle up against. But be careful...she's hot to the touch.

BITCH INDEX: Guarded (Threat Level Blue). Other than the fact that Renata only pretends to like you because you just landed two million and the fact that she's been sleeping with Billy Bob Thornton on the side...in the scheme of other scheming femmes this month, she's not that terrible.

BODY COUNT: 0 directly by her hand. She does get a knife to Charlie's throat but only manages to make a nick before he kills her with a bullet to the gut.

LINE TO DIE BY: "It's against my religion to give out personal advice, but you should either sober up or get real drunk."

POST-MORTEM: You're probably wondering why I included Renata (and this movie) in this month's rundown of Fatal Ladies, considering that she is a minor character. A few reasons: 1) I just read the Scott Phillips novel and wanted to give this nifty little crime movie a second spin 2) Because I'm still a little shocked that Harold Ramis (yes, that Harold Ramis) directed it and 3) There haven't been a lot of "gingers" represented here this month. Renata is a worthy ginger. So is this underseen flick.

FEMME FATALE (2002) - Brian De Palma


THE FEMME: Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn), diamond brassiere thief and later U.S. ambassador's wife ("Lily").

THE FALL GUYS: Spanish paparazzo Nic Bardo (Antonio Banderas) as well as her former heist partners.

HER MOTIVATIONS: Other than money and fun...hard to say. Guessing it's just because she really, REALLY digs Double Indemnity (see pic above).

HER MANIPULATIONS: On-the-go bathroom seductions, bad disguises, a handy French doppelganger with plane tickets on the verge of committing suicide, extreme pole dancing skills.

SEXINESS SCALE: 5 (out of 10). And that's really only for the barroom striptease.

BITCH INDEX: Guarded (Threat Level Blue).

BODY COUNT: In her dreams...2 (Bardo and her Ambassador husband). But once the bathtub dream is revealed for what it is...also 2 (her old heist partners), but not by her own hand. Somewhat unbelievably, it's due to the reflection off her briefcase (yeah, ok...).

LINE TO DIE BY: "Hey, how come you're the only man in this room who doesn't want to fuck me?"

POST-MORTEM: I kinda dug Femme Fatale when it came out, but then I think I was just craving some new De Palma at the time. Rewatching it a decade later, the whole Cannes golden bra seduction-heist at the beginning seems a little desperate, De Palma lampooning himself and his Mission: Impossible past. And the "bath tub" dream revelation feels forced in the context of an otherwise boilerplate thriller. Lynch explored the shifting identities/extended dream thing with far more panache in Mulholland Drive the year before. Also, it helped tremendously that he had Naomi Watts as his lead and not John Stamos' ex-wife.

AUDITION (1999) - Takashi Miike


THE FEMME: Former ballet dancer and present-day blank slate, Asami (Eihi Shiina).

THE FALL GUY: Widowed bachelor Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi).

HER MOTIVATIONS: Lots of childhood trauma with the burn scars to prove it, her short-lived dancing career cut off by injury, garden variety jealousy, non-garden variety insanity.

HER MANIPULATIONS: Deceptive politeness and passivity aided and abetted by paralytic agents, razor-edged piano wire, acupuncture needles in places they're not supposed to go, vomit in places it's not supposed to go (a dog's food bowl).

SEXINESS SCALE: 1 (out of 10). That is, unless you're into the whole wounded Japanese schoolgirl thing.

BITCH INDEX: High (Threat Level Orange)...but only when the torture begins.

BODY COUNT: 1 murder (the bar owner where she once worked) and a handful of gruesome maimings (her ballet instructor, Shigeharu). Honestly, once Asami starts working the piano wire on you, you'll prefer to be murdered.

LINE TO DIE BY: "Deeper, deeper, deeper" (which in Japanese sounds like "Kitty, kitty, kitty").

POST-MORTEM: I'd only seen Audition once before (when it came out) and remembered it as being gruesome all the way through. Really, it's just the last 15 minutes, give or take. But those 15 minutes...still highly squirm-inducing even after all the bad torture porn imitators (Eli Roth and Co.) that followed. The trick here is, you actually feel for the character being tortured and even the one doing the torturing. Makes all the difference, folks.

BASIC INSTINCT (1992) - Paul Verhoeven


THE FEMME: Police psychologist Dr. Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn), aka "Lisa Hoberman" in college.

THE FALL GUY: Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), aka "Shooter" by the rest of the force and crime novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone).

HER MOTIVATIONS: Extreme jealousy, extreme possessiveness, a short-lived Single White Female style college romance with Tramell, an on again, off again sadomasochistic relationship with patient Curran.

HER MANIPULATIONS: Fluid identity, lax privacy policy with patient files, strategic passivity in the bedroom, possible possession of a blonde wig (if you buy into the "Catherine didn't do it" theory), possible handiness with an ice pick (again, if you believe Catherine actually just prefers drinks with "rough edges"). Also, a Bart Simpson key chain. Cute!

SEXINESS SCALE: 8 (out of 10). Stone got all the fevered attention and accolades for her far showier star-making, leg uncrossing and re-crossing performance. But watch a little closer and you'll find Tripplehorn is no slouch in the smoldering department, either as a blonde or a brunette. Even if she does wear underpants.

BITCH INDEX: If Beth really is the killer then it's High (Threat Level Orange). If not, then Low (Threat Level Green). Either way, Tramell is by far the bigger "bitch" here, innocent or not...Severe (Threat Level Red). And that's why we all loved her so.

BODY COUNT: 5. Rock star Johnny Boz, possibly her old college professor, possibly her first husband, Officer Nilsen ("Hey, Shooter"), Detective Gus Moran ("Cowboy")...the saddest elevator offing of all time. Oh, wait, I just remembered Charles Martin Smith in The Untouchables...

LINE TO DIE BY: "What was I supposed to say? Hey, guys, I'm not gay, but I did fuck your suspect?"

POST-MORTEM: For the purposes of this post (and maybe my sixth viewing of the imminently rewatchable Instinct), I'm going to say the Shrink did it and not the sexy crime writer. I'd like to think Curran and Tramell have a vigorous and healthy retiree sex life somewhere in Marin County, all due to the tantalizing threat of that ice pick constantly waiting under the bed. Also, I'd like to forget there was such a beast as Basic Instinct 2.

Monday, August 18, 2014

THE HOT SPOT (1990) - Dennis Hopper


THE FEMME: Dolly Harshaw (Virginia Madsen), southern belle spouse of a Texas used car dealership owner.

THE FALL GUY: Harry Madox (Don Johnson), drifter, petty thief, semi-professional salesman, volunteer firefighter (but only when he needs an alibi).

HER MOTIVATIONS: Extreme small town boredom. A fierce resentment of good girl dealership brunette Gloria Harper (Jennifer Connelly). And, of course, a hot spot in her loins for drifter Harry.

HER MANIPULATIONS: Odd jobs and petty chores designed to get you back to her empty house. Sexy shaving rituals. Handguns as foreplay. Skinny dipping as foreplay. Abandoned grain silos as foreplay. Abandoned lot automobiles as foreplay. Anything as foreplay, really. Dolly doesn't discriminate.

SEXINESS SCALE: 9 (out of 10). For a bottle blonde with visible roots and a tenth grade education, Dolly (i.e., Madsen) really puts her best assets to work in this film. The only reason she doesn't get a 10...I mentioned a 20 year old Jennifer Connelly was also in this, right?

BITCH INDEX: High (Level Orange).

BODY COUNT: One. Her husband...a heart attack in the sack, if you couldn't guess.

LINE TO DIE BY: "There's only two things to do in this town. You got a TV? No? Then you're down to one."

POST-MORTEM: I've always thought of The Hot Spot as an underrated little '90s noir. Rewatching it again, I still feel the same. It lags in a few plot points, but the acting and tone...hot, hot, hot.

BLACK WIDOW (1987) - Bob Rafelson


THE FEMME: Catherine (Theresa Russell), a freelance trophy wife and professional chameleon with a string of rich dead husbands in her wake.

THE FALL GUYS: Countless rich dead husbands (Dennis Hooper, Nicol Williamson) but this time a fall girl...federal agent Alex Barnes (Debra Winger).

HER MOTIVATIONS: Dollar dollar bills, ya'll. And perhaps a burgeoning Sapphic attraction to Winger.

HER MANIPULATIONS: Frequent costume changes. An advanced knowledge of poisons and inheritance loopholes. "Ondine's curse."

SEXINESS SCALE: 2 (out of 10). To be honest, Russell was sexier in Straight Time. I think she's one of those actresses who's less sexy when she's TRYING to be sexy. Debra Winger on the other hand...effortless. But then I'm a sucker for husky-voiced brunettes (see also: Lizzy Caplan).

BITCH INDEX: High (Level Orange). Also, the color of one of Russell's fright wigs.

BODY COUNT: Countless. I threw in the towel early on.

LINE TO DIE BY: "The black widow...she mates and she kills." Also the one-sheet tagline.

POST-MORTEM: Black Widow does not hold up well, a descendant of those heady late '80s days when film noir became a bad word and therefore morphed into "psychological thrillers." That said, I think I would have enjoyed a little more at least if Russell and Winger had swapped roles.

BODY HEAT (1981) - Lawrence Kasdan


THE FEMME: Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), bored Florida wife of wealthy industrialist.

THE FALL GUY: Sleazy and frequently sweaty ambulance chaser, Ned Racine (William Hurt).

HER MOTIVATIONS: $$$. Also, sex. But mostly $$$$$$$.

HER MANIPULATIONS: Short fire-engine-red skirts, legs that won't quit, lips that won't quit, accidental sno-cone spills, back porch wind chimes, a secret knowledge of wills and estate law, a secret connection for acquiring explosive devices, a dear old friend that looks just like her from behind (body switch anyone?).

SEXINESS SCALE: 11 (out of 10). Turner is OFF THE CHARTS desirable in this flick. Scorching hot, no matter the season, no matter the state. That said...

BITCH INDEX: Severe (Threat Level Red). Tangle with a woman this greedy, this flammable and your death is assured.  Worse...your lifetime incarceration.

BODY COUNT: 2, both burnt to a crisp (her husband, her dear old friend). The unseen Spaniard dude on the beach at the end is probably next.

LINES TO DIE BY: "You don't want to lick it?" (re: the sno-cone spill in her cleavage)

POST-MORTEM: Still remains one of the best neo noirs of all time. Certainly the best of the '80s. If you don't believe me, just watch this clip of arsonist Mickey Rourke lip syncing Bob Seger.

CHINATOWN (1974) - Roman Polanski



THE FEMME: Evelyn Mulray (Faye Dunaway), wife of deceased L.A. Water and Power tycoon, daughter of most evil man on the planet, Noah Cross (John Huston).

THE FALL GUY: Detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), a nosy parker with the nose bandage to prove it.

HER MOTIVATIONS: Equal parts obfuscation, romantic attraction and fact-finding.

HER MANIPULATIONS: Threat of lawsuit, followed by a hefty finder's fee. Classy hats and veils, blood red lipstick, a generous bedside manner than involves luxuriously twisting your armpit hair post-sex. A slight stutter whenever her father's name is mentioned. Also...secrets, secrets, SECRETS.

SEXINESS SCALE: 5 (out of 10). Evelyn may dress like the discreet socialite she is, but she also wears her "damage" on her sleeve. Dunaway is a stunner as always, but her character here is more victim than predator. And, thus, harder to lust after guilt-free.

BITCH INDEX: Low (Level Green). Sure, Evelyn has a nasty habit of lying about her alarmingly twisted family tree ("She's my sister! She's my daughter! She's my sister and my daughter!!!"). But can you really blame her when it looks like an inverted bonsai? Also, she helps Gittes out of several scrapes when she doesn't have to. She looks like a femme, talks like a femme, but deep down you can tell she's a good (if a little cracked) egg.

BODY COUNT: Herself. Sadly. By stray Chinatown gunshot.

LINES TO DIE BY: "I don't get tough with anyone, Mr. Gittes. My lawyer does."

POST-MORTEM: Forget it, Jake...it's Chinatown. What else is there to say?