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The Parallax View

     This brilliant, spellbinding 1974 political thriller was the unseen bastard film of Alan J. Pakula’s watch-your-back " paranoia " trilogy, squeezed between box-office favorites Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976). In The Parallax View, a Northwest TV news crew is accidental witness to a senator’s fatal shooting by a waiter, who (remember Lee Harvey Oswald) is himself slain by police before he can talk. A high court rules that the murderer acted alone (think Warren Commission), then employees from the TV station die off one by one. Are these deaths accidental, or are they the serial killings of those who may have sighted additional assassins?

     One among the survivors investigates: Joseph Frady (Warren Beatty), a frazzled ex-alcoholic loner news reporter. He makes a Hitchcockian trek from one perilous environment to another until he stumbles onto the Parallax Corporation. Joseph suspects a front for assassination squads, so he decides to spy from within. Fatal mistake!

     Audiences back then didn’t warm up to Pakula’s cryptic film — even for adventurous 1970s Hollywood, The Parallax View was experimental, almost avant-garde in its reliance on off-kilter, Euro-artsy visuals (the cinematography is by the great Gordon Willis). There are extended non-dialogue patches, such as the recruiting film for the Parallax Corporation: five uninterrupted minutes of eerie, brainwashing images. Best of all, there’s the way the famous political assassination in Nashville (1975) is prefigured by The Parallax View's explosive climax at a mammoth rally for a charismatic rising candidate.

(Boston Phoenix, April 5-12, 2001)

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