The Parallax View (1974), an eerie thriller, was about feelings of pre-ordained doom. Haunted by doubts about the shootings of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and George Wallace, and by the Watergate scandal, it’s always been my personal favorite among Alan Pakula‘s “paranoid trilogy,” which began with 1971’s Klute and ended with 1976’s All The President’s Men.
By “personal favorite” I don’t mean I believe it was the best of the trilogy — that would be All The President’s Men, I still feel, with Klute, the Manhattan-based Jane Fonda-Donald Sutherland thriller about a sexually-tinged killer, running a close second. Parallax had a slightly fuzzy, less-than-fully-resolved quality — a little ramshackle at times. It used a slow-motion shot of a flying car.
But it had the creepiest mood spray of all three. It exuded that anxious and unsettled atmosphere that seemed to permeate the mid ’70s, a weird socio-political haze that everyone refers to these days as a rote thing (“The ’70s, of course!…queasy stomachs all around!”), but at the time wasn’t fully sensed or shared. (This mood also informed, in a slightly different way, Sydney Pollack‘s Three Days of the Condor .) It was rooted in a vague suspicion that all kinds of malevolent political criminality was being perpetrated by amoral operatives in shades and suits. Parallax really does feel like a murder-thriller blended with some kind of slow-brewing anxiety attack.
The story follows an investigation by a nervy reporter (Warren Beatty) into the Parallax Corporation, a shadowy, corporate-mannered organization that focuses on finding Oswald-esque malcontents to pull off political killings.
As long as we’re on the subject, here’s the Parallax Corporation’s psycho-nutjob-itchy-trigger-finger indoctrination video, which is shown at the end of Act Two.
Some other clips:
Deputy sheriff: “You know, for a moment there I thought you were a man. But you’re not, are ya?” Beatty: “No, I’m a girl.”