Chinatown revisited the film noir genre of the 1940s and ’50s only to perfect it. This has everything you could ask of a noir: the swanky cars and costumes of 1940s Los Angeles; the tragic smolder of Faye Dunaway’s femme fatale; the bruised gallantry of Jack Nicholson’s seen-it-all private detective. Yet what ultimately makes it work are the smoothly operating gears in the background, namely those of Robert Towne’s legendary screenplay (honed by director Roman Polanski). An exemplar of economy and precision, Chinatown doesn’t have a scene, a word or a detail it doesn’t need. Its air of fatalism also makes it an emotionally authentic successor to those 1940s crime pictures. Corruption reigns here, and the tragedy of the movie lies in watching Nicholson’s detective, a former cop who had a futile beat in Chinatown, learn this lesson twice.