No matter what you think of director Roman Polanski, you can’t ignore his ability to craft a narrative through visual symbolism. Chinatown simultaneously feels weirdly realistic and magically fictional in its depiction of an older California. As Jack Nicholson’s character Jake Gittes unravels the mystery of a murder and some shady money dealings, the case takes both a physical and mental toll on him. The most prescient visual metaphor for his strife is the cut on his nose that he received from a gangster (played by Polanski himself) while investigating clues around the city. The framing, acting, and mood of the entire film give it a feeling of hard-boiled noir, and its third act twist cements it as one of the most fascinating genre films of the 1970’s.