Poster and booklet design concept for the film Chinatown.
A primary goal of any film is to immerse the viewer in the world it creates. Period films push this challenge much further—they must convincingly design a world that is so detailed that the viewer is able to easily be absorbed. Roman Polanski’s Chinatown is such a film; anachronism is intolerable, down to any representational imagery.
Pleasing enough to those who haven’t seen the film, but offering deeper layers of meaning to those who have, this re-imagining of the movie poster drops you right into 1937: the year Chinatown takes place. Period advertisements tell the story of who, where, and what—without giving anything away. Jack Nicholson stars as private detective J.J. Gittes; a bloodhound following the scent of corruption a little too closely. Faye Dunaway is Evelyn Mulwray, whose eyes aren’t the only thing betraying secrets. John Huston is Noah Cross, whose scruples have far too much in common with those of a low-down, dirty rat. Director Polanski has a brief, yet integral cameo as a brutal, knife-wielding thug. The majority of the classified ads included refer to Los Angeles, where the film is set, or the surrounding area. One of the ads, prominently displayed, touts “Real Estate, Farm And Orchard Lands”—a major theme of the film.
The title script itself mimics Hanzi characters in both its implementation and orientation. Its bold red signifies not only the importance of color in Chinese culture, but also the violently spilled blood in the film itself.