Week six of our Classic Screen Slap series brings us perhaps our most esteemed and popular film. Choosing one film which featured Faye Dunaway and slapping proved rather difficult after the breadth of choices available. In fact, Mommie Dearest came a close second to this week’s featured classic screen slap.
The Film: Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning noir pic Chinatown sees a classic scene that has lived on throughout popular culture, making the frequent intertextual reference on shows like The Simpsons, Six Feet Under and The Sopranos to name a few.
The Players: Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway – the slapped) and Detective J.J. Giddes (Jack Nicholson – the slapper).
Social context: In relation to Manolis’ episode, the biggest connection here is family. Manolis is all about family. And so too is Evelyn, evidently. The prickly issue of incest is rarely touched upon in cinema, and when it is, it either features mutant looking people (hello banjo playing hillbillies from Deliverance), or characters who are ultimately reprimanded in some way or another for their sinister activities.
Velocity: Bonus points are given to Detective Gittes for an added backhanded slap. The four other slaps that he deals Evelyn are given with good movement. A sizeable but not unreasonable distance exists between J.J.’s hand and Evelyn’s face, and the hair that falls onto her face adds a little something extra.
Hardness: J.J.’s powerful slaps from such a short distance must be incredibly hard. You can see the hardness in his eyes, and then in the eyes of Evelyn as she so bravely receives them.
Sound: The sound enhances the rough slaps of which Evelyn receives. As she is thrown onto the couch, we hear a smashing sound, but from Evelyn’s appearance, it doesn’t seem that she made any contact. The screams that issue forth from Dunaway’s mouth are really exquisite and help make the scene so powerfully camp.
Be sure to check out all of our previous classic screen slaps here.