Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt on Chinatown
Talking About Chinatown with our guest, Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt
Roman Polanski’s 1974 neo-noir Chinatown is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. In this episode, we’re joined by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt to discuss this masterpiece of cinema.
We start by talking to Erik about his passion for filmmaking and what led him to a career in cinematography. He shares how he was drawn to the camaraderie and creative collaboration of working on set. Over time he realized the cinematographer role allowed him to blend his interests in art, science, and technology.
When it comes to Chinatown, Erik praises the elegant camerawork and seamless visual storytelling. Polanski uses the camera deliberately, guiding the audience through clues and reveals without excessive dialogue. The mystery unfolds through precise editing and minimalist framing. We also discuss the phenomenal performances and how Polanski pulls back at key moments to ground the major plot turns.
Chatting with Erik gave us a new appreciation for the nuance and artistry of Chinatown. It’s a masterclass in subtle visual storytelling that inspired generations of filmmakers. Roman Polanski’s direction and Robert Towne’s script form a potent combination. We highly recommend revisiting this neo-noir gem.