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Wadrick's Celluloid Dungeon

The Parallax View (1974)

Starring Warren Beatty, Paula Prentiss, Hume Cronyn, William Daniels & Anthony Zerbe.
Written by David Giler & Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Directed by Alan J. Pakula.

Joe Frady (Beatty) never quite believed that a “lone nutcase” assassinated a US senator atop Seattle’s Space Needle. After some time investigating his suspicions, Joe has finally given up and settled into a life of journalistic tedium, warbling to his own melody and infuriating the police and his editor with his bombastic attitude. When a journo friend is killed – another in a long line of suspicious deaths emanating from the aforementioned assassination – Joe stumbles onto the role of the shadowy Parallax corporation. He comes to believe that Parallax are in the contract killer business, and decides to go inside their walls for a closer look. Viewed through 21st century eyes, the content of The Parallax View is as familiar as peanut butter. But what makes this film an undeniable classic of 1970s celluloid is the fact that, despite the decades of repetition of theme and story, it remains as fresh and dastardly as it would have nearly forty years ago. At a time when the idea of controlled patsies was slowly being brought into the public consciousness through the Congressional hearings into the CIA’s MKULTRA program, The Parallax View was as timely as director Pakula’s subsequent and most recognised work All The President’s Men (both films part of the director’s political paranoia trilogy that also included 1971’s Klute). From the records, The Parallax View was a box office success in ’74, but in the years since it has been relegated to the forgotten box of American cinema. Denied a substantial DVD release, the film can now be found (if you’re lucky) for $3 sitting at the bottom of a video store bargain bin, beneath ex-rental copies of Jennifer’s Body and Scary Movie 4. However, theme and content are only part of the allure of this classic film. Director Pakula and his cinematographer Gordon Willis (The Godfather) created an artistic masterpiece that sits uncomfortably between the line that separates the pretentious from the truly inspired. Odd architecture and prolonged shots of seemingly pointless action simply aid the feeling that someone else is watching you watch this film. Desperate to shake his milquetoast/pretty-boy image, Beatty became a major power player in Hollywood following his incredibly successful production of Bonnie & Clyde in 1967. He was at the forefront of the “New Hollywood” movement which saw budding legends of the industry like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese given unprecedented artistic control over their projects. In keeping with his reputation as somewhat of a control freak (illustrated famously when he locked horns with director Robert Altman on the set of McCabe & Mrs Miller), Beatty reportedly commissioned and oversaw the famous “montage” scene for Parallax. Despite his fallacies and bull-headed individualism, there can be no doubt about Beatty’s artistic vision and especially his talent, so clearly defined in 1974’s The Parallax View.

by Wadrick Jones

Pics: harrymosebyconfidential.blogspot.com; empireonline.com

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