By Erin Free

Year:  1974

Director:  Alan J. Pakula

Rated:  M

Release:  7 July 2024

Running time: 102 minutes

Worth: $19.90
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Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Warren Beatty, Hume Cronyn, Paula Prentiss, Bill McKinney

A truly stunning and staggering work from a decade packed-to-busting with them...

The seventies were the undisputed golden age of the paranoid thriller (though one of the very best – John Frankenheimer’s Seconds – did come out in 1966), and the almost undisputed king of this downbeat little subgenre was the great Alan J. Pakula, who practically defined it with his stunning triumvirate of Klute (1971), The Parallax View (1974) and All The President’s Men (1976). While the first and third of these were instant hits and cinematic game-changers, The Parallax View was something of a difficult “middle child”, failing financially upon its theatrical release and not connecting with critics. Over the years, however, The Parallax View has grown in stature to now be rightfully seen as one of the most absorbing and wholly original films of the decade, and a perfect triple bill partner with The Conversation and Winter Kills.

Expertly adapted by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Giler (and also the legendary Robert Towne, along with Pakula and leading man Warren Beatty) from Loren Singer’s novel, The Parallax View takes all of the swirling madness of the American political assassinations of the 1960s and squeezes it through a prism of 1970s paranoia and uncertainty. Beginning with one of the most stunningly shot and ingeniously devised assassination sequences ever committed to film, The Parallax View then takes its leading character – tenacious reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty at his dogged, slightly befuddled best) – through the looking glass and into a bizarre alternate America controlled by strange shadow organisations and threatened by a cabal of assassins. Joe Frady keeps digging and digging to get to the truth, all of which leads to one of the most cynical endings in American cinema history.

Ratcheting the tension and sense of unease with true brilliance, Pakula benefits immensely from the famously shadowy cinematography of 1970s master Gordon Willis (who would shoot The Godfather: Part II the same year, for fuck’s sake) and the understated score by Michael Small, but this is really a director’s film. Every scene is so well constructed, and every shot filled with so much information, that The Parallax View becomes something of a cinematic jigsaw puzzle, perfectly locked together by its master constructer. A truly stunning and staggering work from a decade packed-to-busting with them, The Parallax View is paranoia perfectly and pointedly distilled by a director operating at the absolute peak of his near otherworldly powers.

In a 50th Anniversary event, The Parallax View screens at The Revelation Perth International Film Festival on July 7 at 5:00pm at Luna Cinemas, Leederville. For more information, click here.


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