The Parallax View (1974) Poster

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Existentialism with a political twist
JuguAbraham27 March 2003
I saw this film first some twenty years ago and loved it. I saw it again this week and found the film superior to most other films of director Pakula and found it to be another gem from cinematographer Gordon Willis.

"Parallax View" never won Oscars or other major awards for Pakula but this film along with "Klute" and "Sophie's Choice" are his finest works. Articles on Pakula often focus on his award-winning work and neglect this fine movie.

What was great in this film that was missing in "All the president's men" or "The pelican brief"? Here the element of existentialism sucked in the viewer to participate in the whirlpool of deceit, exemplified most by the test given to the lead character in the offices of Parallax Corporation, the staccato editing (John Wheeler) that exemplifies the individual's helplessness, and the imaginative photography (Willis) that stunts the individual (not crowds) against the himalayan landscapes of glass and steel.

The film was made at a time when Hollywood was brimming with great films with a similar line of thought (Spielberg's "Duel", Coppola's "The Conversation", Penn's "Night Moves", Polanski's "Chinatown", Antonionni's "Zabriskie Point", Altman's "Nashville", Boorman's "Point Blank", etc.) internalizing the external, as Camus would have best described it. "Parallax View" among all these films touched the subject of politics using the least obscure metaphors and similies.

Can one forget the dead calm in the sea before the explosion/assasination? Or the assassination viewed from the roof top of the victim's cart colliding with empty tables and chairs towards the end of the film? None of Pakula's other films have such hardhitting scenes as these, even if one were to discount the unconvincing cool response of the lead character in the airplane when he realizes that there is a live bomb on it.

This is a film that grips you nearly 30 years after it was made, when US politics seems to be at a point very close to what the film depicted three decades ago.
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Mainstream US Cinema at its 70s Best
robertconnor1 September 2006
A US Senator is assassinated and the official inquiry concludes it was the work of a lone gunman. Three years later, with 6 witnesses dead, a TV reporter present at the killing is frightened for her life. She takes her fears to a journalist ex-boyfriend. At first he is sceptical...

Brilliant paranoid thriller from Pakula, utilising choppy realism and naturalistic dialogue to create a bleak and uncompromising picture of cynical, corporate conspiracy within US politics. Beatty has never been better as the ambitious journo-hack Joe Frady, and he is superbly supported by Cronyn, Daniels and a deeply compelling cameo from Prentiss. You can bet this wasn't diluted by audience testing prior to release... unmissable.
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THE definitive 1970s paranoid thriller. Intelligent, tense and effective.
Infofreak23 February 2004
When I hear mention of Warren Beatty these days I almost begin to snore, but before Beatty became a boring old fart he made a handful of very interesting and adventurous movies like 'Mickey One', 'McCabe & Mrs Miller' and 'The Parallax View', hardly safe Hollywood movie star material. 'The Parallax View' is THE definitive 1970s paranoid thriller, beaten only by Coppola's 'The Conversation', released incidentally the same year. The movie has to be watched in the context of when it was made. It's shot through with post-Watergate cynicism and the Kennedy assassinations cast a long shadow over the plot. Beatty gives a very subtle, relaxed performance, and for me is totally believable. The supporting cast is first rate. Veteran Hume Cronyn ('Shadow Of A Doubt') plays Beatty's editor, Paula Prentiss ('The Stepford Wives') a hysterical fellow journalist, and William Daniels (Dustin Hoffman's father in 'The Graduate') has a brief but memorable bit as another witness who fears for his life. Also keep an eye out for the legendary Bill McKinney (who nobody who's ever seen 'Deliverance' will forget!) as an assassin, Anthony Zerbe ('The Omega Man') as a psychologist (playing Pong with a chimp!), and Earl Hindman ('The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three') in the bar fight scene. Much of 'The Parallax View' was later used in 'Arlington Road', an unconvincing movie which was much too contrived for me to be believable. It just didn't have the subtlety that this one has, and spelled everything out, seeming assuming its audience wasn't bright enough to get it. 'The Parallax View' is still one of the most intelligent, tense and effective conspiracy thrillers ever made, and the direction by the late Alan J. Pakula is just about flawless. Highly recommended.
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A Triumph in Cinematography as Seeing
rrebenstorf15 January 2003
The term, parallax, has everything to do with seeing, and as such it is particularly fitting for a film that is about seeing on many levels. Gordon Willis' distinctive cinematography is a perfect match for just such an enterprise. His commanding use of light, shapes, and (most of all) darkness creates a sense of uncertainty that flavors this so-called paranoid thriller. Along with under-sung director Alan J. Pakula, Willis is working here with pretty much the same production team that would next give us _All the President's Men_, but they do as well in this earlier film with apparently a lot less. Contrast the newsroom as shown here with the detailed recreation of The Washington Post in ATPM. It seems like Hume Cronyn and Warren Beatty are the whole newspaper in _The Parallax View_. That's fine. It's supposed to be two-bit paper.

We are shown eyewitnesses who don't know what they thought they saw during an assassination attempt. We don't know what we thought we saw either. We are shown conspirators who are constantly seeing around the next corner. We are kept guessing as well. We follow Warren Beatty nervously as he tries to keep ahead of this game. Kenneth Mars even gives Beatty a second false identity just in case the first one is checked. Finally, we take a slide-show psychological exam right along with Beatty, and perhaps we wonder what our own responses to it show us to be. It's a very special film that allows us to trust the filmmakers even though we know they may be giving us unreliable information. That blind trust seems to be the soul of this truly great movie.

Finally, I'd like to cast a vote for Mr. Beatty as one of our true American acting treasures. Where would the great films of the 70s be without his hip, wise-cracking presence? Did we expect Elliott Gould to do all the work?
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Terrifying Masterpiece
secragt7 May 2003
PARALLAX VIEW is an impressive political thriller with an unusually specific and scary viewpoint. It posits that many conspiracies work because relatively few people are in on the whole joke; some are involved in the set up, some in the telling, and some in the punchline, but only a precious few are given the whole picture, making detection almost impossible. The argument is compellingly made.

It is the perfectly machine-tooled "punchline" role the Powers That Be assign to an unwitting Warren Beatty that makes PARALLAX VIEW such a frightening movie. There seems to be a thread running through many of the bigger conspiracy movies (see ARLINGTON ROAD, ROLLERBALL, NETWORK, THE INSIDER, etc.) that suggests unless the individual can find an inroad to make themselves useful to the system, the system finds a role for individual (often not to his liking). In the case of NETWORK, individual Howard Beal is initially spared by one geopolitical phase of the corporate system and allowed continue to rant on TV once he is properly slotted by Ned Beatty, but he is ultimately murdered when the corporate television arm of the system no longer has a use for his declining ratings. He becomes a punchline.

In THE INSIDER, Russell Crowe is initially hung out to dry by the system until Al Pacino is able to find a way to manipulate the television arm of the system to find a value for Crowe. Crowe becomes the instrument of the telling.

In ROLLERBALL, James Caan is beloved by part of the system as the greatest celebrity sports figure of his time, but ultimately sabotaged by another part of the corporate world which is trying to espouse the notion in the game that the individual can never beat the system, something Caan has been indirectly doing by being too successful in the game. Caan successfully defeats the setup, telling and punchline (though he's probably not long for this world.)

In the case of Warren Beatty in the PARALLAX VIEW, he is elected to take the fall for a political assassination which will simultaneously discredit his own conspiracy investigations. The task is accomplished with such cold blooded efficiency and clever precision, one has to seriously doubt whether our own Federal government could do it. But then, is that perceived incompetence of our officials just another con being perpetrated on us by "Them"? Beatty's mistake is that he underestimates "the set-up" and becomes the posterchild of the system's "punchline."

It is in this battle between individual and system that THE PARALLAX VIEW really distinguishes itself. What initially appears to be the ambiguous paranoia of a decidedly neurotic woman is gradually allowed to organically grow such that we can begin to see tips of the iceberg along the way, but don't want to believe what we're seeing even when the truth is apparent. That iceberg subtly floats by in different forms every time Beatty investigates further or reexamines his own position, yet remains nearly invisible possibly because it is so big it cannot be seen or contemplated?

Certainly there are aspects which lurch toward absurdity. For instance, the non-fallout from the cartoonish bomb explosion of Beatty's plane (containing an important political official no less) certainly should have aroused greater attention and suspicion. A car chase about 2/3rds of the way through feels particularly tacked-on. However, the overall focus of this movie, which is the slow peeling back of the layers to get to the irresistible mystery, is highly effective. People can judge for themselves whether any of the dirty tricks this movie documents really go on, but that's really not the point.

This is a story full of intriguing moves and clever counter-moves. Scams and ploys and scams inside of ploys. Most of these details are fascinating and we feel like Pakula is letting us in on some of the dirty little subversive things we've always feared may occur behind the doors of the seat of government. But ultimately, this is a story about a man who looks too long at the sun and is so intrigued yet blinded by what he sees, he ignores the nature of the sun, which is to both illuminate and to burn. Whether any of the conspiracy suggested is true, it remains one of the most compelling efforts of the seventies, and is a must-see. See it and judge for yourself.
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Political conspiracy thriller par excellence.
austin-184 December 1998
The late Alan J. Pakula's 1974 film about political murders is a superbly crafted thriller that holds the audience in its quiet, unsettling grip.

Warren Beatty gives his character of Joe Frady, a "third-rate" journalist, just the right balance of recklessness and determination to enable one to have faith in this man to uncover such shady, potentially threatening goings-on.

Beatty is ably backed up by the supporting cast, most notably Hume Cronyn as Frady's editor, and Paula Prentiss and William Daniels as, respectively, a television reporter and columnist both in fear for their lives.

Composer Michael Small's main theme (used at strategic points throughout the film and often playing on the traditional patriotic sound of the trumpet) has a quality both mournful and despairing that relates effectively to what we are watching. It is a rather sparse music score, but this seems to add to its power. Gordon Willis's Panavision photography conveys threat in even the most everyday of locations (his rendering of modern architecture is especially strong in suggesting a faceless, omnipotent threat), while the editing rhythms and sound design contribute a great deal in throwing the audience off-balance.

Pakula has been involved in more widely-known projects such as All The President's Men and Presumed Innocent, but The Parallax View is definitely one of his best and most powerful films.
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treywillwest11 August 2016
It has become commonplace to identify '70s Hollywood films as their own genre. I'll go one farther and identify this era as a collective, structural autuer.

If that hypothesis holds any water, this is one of its impressive works. Made shortly after Watergate, and less than a decade after the JFK assassination, this envisions conspiracies and assassinations not as a disruption of, but a cornerstone of the American establishment.

This is, in a sense, not a POLITICAL conspiracy thriller. The US government, or that of any other country, is presented as merely a dope of a greater power- that of the big corporations of whatever stripe. This is a dystopian capitalist democracy- one in which representatives are elected to "officially" be as clueless as the general populace about the real social reality around them.

Perhaps the most subversive thing about this very subversive film is that the assassinations don't seem catastrophic, or even troubling. When one takes place, the victim politician is basically a walking sound bite. His sacrifice seems only the continuation of a ritual of banal brutality.

In one scene, a film is shown that is supposed to condition the viewer to murderous obedience. It is a montage of images of Americana, including those of violence and oppression. In most '70s conspiracy thrillers, the evil that lurked beneath the surface had a predatory relation to the commonly understood reality. People were putting their trust in a machine that was not what it seemed. Here, the evil is the surface. America IS the conspiracy.

DP Gordon Willis has never impressed me more. In his work with Woody Allen and Francis Coppola his show-offy use of shadow and in-the-frame lighting sources seemed at times to distract from the tone or theme of the film, as if Willis was only interested in defining his "look" regardless of its relation to the film's content. Here, it fits the tone of the film perfectly. The final scenes, largely devoid of dialog, in a hall filled with terrifyingly "patriotic" imagery, is gorgeous. Many of the shots reminded me of de Cherico paintings.
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nobody gets the real point of the film
bsmun15 February 2002
In all the comments, all the reviews, no one really gets the point of the film, and the clever wordplay involved. Parallax means the different views of an object you get from different angles, mostly used when describing the position of stars (e.g. stellar parallax). In this context, the parallax is between the "official" view - which points to the anti-social, outsiders prepared by Parallax Corporation as their patsies - and the truth, wherein Parallax Corporation has one, maybe two assassins who actually do the real work. By providing these miscreants as window-dressing for their real assassins, the Corporation creates a scenario where the real assassin goes free.

This is the big thing no one gets about the movie - Frady's not being trained as an assassin, he's not being brainwashed - he's being tested to see if he can fit the profile they need for a patsy.
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" When you've asked a hundred question and received no answers, you're not suppose to know "
thinker169118 June 2010
In the age of conspiracy, there are dozen of reasons why bad things happen to good people. They never happen to bad people, they are protected. Lincoln, Kennedy, Luthor King and even Bobby Kennedy, all were targeted for death by their enemies. Bush, Nixon or even pedophile priests, all have guardian angels. This movie is called " The Parallax View " which offers a plausible suggestion of how such powerful organizations work. Warren Beatty plays Joseph Frady, a top notch reporter who discovers a mounting pile of evidence, all which indicates a U.S. Senator was not assassinated by a lone gunman. However, as he begins collecting both the name of witnesses and collaborating evidence to substantiate his conclusions, he become the primary target of the Paraallax corporation. With Williams Daniels and Hume Cronyn in supporting roles, this strange and compelling film urges the audience to try and stay ahead of the assassins. Base on the David Giler novel and aptly directed by Alan J. Pakula this movie is driven by suspense and fueled by circumstance. From the very beginning, the audience is drawn ever forward with the hero and we hope he will get to the exit door before the Parallax crew prevents him. An exciting and heart pounding ending awaiting anyone paying attention and riveted to their chair. Superior film for Warren Beatty and one destined to become a Classic. ****
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"Theres no conspiracy, every death can be explained ! - - - - - - Or can they?"
dgrahamwatson3 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
There are many people who comment on the IMDb web site that are in the movie industry in some capacity struggling to earn a living in writing, directing or producing and even the ones on the outside that are looking in and can't find work. They see their vastly superior scripts, or movies that they are trying to promote or be financed rejected and then they come across a film such as the PARALLAX VIEW, it must drive them potty having to make sense of this! That's too bad for them, but in my case I'm just an end user, I don't care about poor writing or plot holes or if a movie is a bit of a train wreck. I judge a film positively simply on the basis if it keeps my attention and entertains me, or there are scenes in it that I like, nothing else!

In 1974 this type of movie was contemporary with America embroiled in a political and constitutional crisis with Watergate and struggling to come to terms with the aftermath of the Vietnam war as well as the hangover from the assassination of a President in 1963 . An investigation followed where the official report from the "Warren Commission" concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone as the assassin . If this wasn't bad enough Oswald himself was rubbed out while in police custody by Jack Ruby who also died very shortly after, seemingly in mysterious circumstances. In addition over the years there was apparently an unusually high number of deaths from people who were at some capacity involved or close to the facility of the JFK shooting i.e doctors, nurses, coroners, security etc. Endless documentaries and books outlined the fact that many suffered more than there fare share of coronaries or pulmonary embolisms, car crashes ,drownings and suicides in the immediate post-assassination years!

In addition if that wasn't enough ten years on from JFK and after the assassination of prominent civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr and popular democratic presidential hopeful Bobby Kennedy as well as an failed attempt on segregationist and presidential contender George Wallace, a skeptical US public did not buy the official line of a lone deranged gunmen with a grudge. The government had lied to them for so long about so much, they were just ripe for alternative view or theory.

What I like about this movie is the atmosphere created by Pakula the music score both at the beginning and the end as well as in certain areas during the movie. Also there is an eerie sense of foreboding, it's quite unsettling. There are some good scenes i.e. up on top of the Seattle space needle, the grinning assassin at the bottom after, Joe Frady on the plane, the meeting with one of his female companions, the desperate and frightened Austin Tucker and lastly the brain washing scene at the parallax complex. I admit to seeing plot holes and I understand that it's frustrating at times with more questions than answers here, but it still kept my attention.

The ending is unsatisfactory and not easy to explain? Did Parallax realize that Frady was an investigative reporter, or was he simply hired to be a patsy that would take the fall for a killing? I believe that it's likely that the movie allows the viewer to fill in these plot holes anyway they like bearing in mind that it would be impossible to produce this type of conspiracy in under two hours. Also, they would have to fill in the gaps and form their own conclusions! Then again, maybe Pakula was being subtle! The fact that the events that unfolded are not plausible only reinforced my feeling that maybe it was just his way of pointing out to a cynical public that the idea of this type of organized conspiracy was simply ludicrous, so he presented a film that suggests just that!

Personally I liked the movie, there is a good cast with Warren Beatty, William Daniels, Paula Prentiss, Hume Conyn and Earl Hindaman (who played Mr Brown in the taking of Pelham 1,2,3). In particular I liked Bill McKinley as the assassin, he never said much but came over as menacing, he really seemed to enjoy his work! Overall, more worked for me in this film than didn't. If you like 70's films and government conspiracy movies you'll probably get a kick out of this. There are also some nice out door shots too. I would recommend this movie.

Note: in 1975 a year after this movie was released President Gerald Ford who prior to becoming president was on the "warren Commission" was also a victim of a couple assassination attempts on him, apparently from lone deranged gun-women. Also, ironically both Walter McGinn and Alan.J.Pakula were killed in automobile accidents a few years later.)
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Groundbreaking and brave genre definer.
Cinemadharma24 January 2008
You won't get any answers from this film. Because giving us definitive answers would be contrary to the entire point of the film. If you have a single definitive answer (or view), then you don't have a parallax (view).

Everyone will come out of this film with a different idea of what it was about or what really happened -- their own interpretations of the information presented to them -- kind of like how conspiracy theorists generally operate.

For example, Zapruder shot his JFK film from one angle -- and 12 other people also shot films or photos at the moments of the assassination, all from different angles (or points of view). Not to mention the many other people who were present that day to witness it, who also saw things from their own point of view. Some folks saw movement in the grassy knoll, others didn't.

In the end, we'll probably never truly know the answers to these sorts of things. And the search for the answers can be a slippery path to travel... Which is what we can only assume Warren Beatty's character learns in the final moments of the film. But really, that's just from my point of view.
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An End To Innocence
seymourblack-19 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
After the optimism and idealism of the 1960s came the scepticism and unease of the 1970s. The assassination of President John Kennedy had been shocking and the findings of the Warren Commission had left the majority of the public unconvinced. Most didn't believe that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone and there was also a strong belief that there had been a high level cover up.

When the President's brother Robert was later assassinated in circumstances which also led many to believe that a second gunman had been involved, public distrust of official explanations grew even deeper and the Watergate scandal reinforced the opinions of those who believed that corruption, cover ups and conspiracies were routinely being practised on a massive scale by ruthless groups who simply served their own interests and certainly didn't hold themselves accountable to the general public.

"The Parallax View" captures perfectly the ominous and unsettling mood of this period when suspicion and cynicism were widespread and an increasingly apprehensive public became convinced that truth and integrity had become the greatest casualties of the era.

When Joe Frady (Warren Beatty), a reporter for a small time newspaper is visited by his ex-girlfriend Lee Carter (Paula Prentiss), she tells him that she's terrified and fears for her life. Three years previously, she'd been a television reporter at an event at the Space Needle in Seattle where she'd witnessed the assassination of Senator Charles Carroll (William Joyce) and since that time six other witnesses had died unexpectedly. Her fear is that she'll be the next witness to be killed. Frady dismisses her concerns as being unfounded and regards the series of deaths as pure coincidence. When Lee's dead body is found shortly after and her death is recorded as either a suicide or the result of an accidental overdose, Frady decides to investigate further.

Frady's investigations lead him to the town of Salmontail where he gets involved in a fight with the local deputy sheriff and survives an attempt on his life before discovering some papers about the Parallax Corporation which appears to be an organisation which hires political assassins. He then meets Senator Carroll's ex-adviser on a boat which is destroyed when a bomb explodes. Frady is presumed dead and this enables him to continue his work under an assumed name.

Frady subsequently applies to join the Parallax Corporation and after being accepted finds himself involved in some tense situations when a bomb is planted on a plane and again when another Senator is assassinated at a convention hall.

The plot of "The Parallax View" is given credibility by the inclusion of elements which are recognisable from the JFK assassination (more than one gunman involved and the untimely deaths of witnesses) and an investigator who like Woodward and Bernstein (in the case of the Watergate investigation) is a newspaper reporter. Furthermore, a powerful montage of images and titles which form part of the psychological test which Frady has to undergo in order to be recruited into the Parallax Corporation, shows a very simple method by which a candidate's values and beliefs could easily be distorted.

Frady is a flawed character who clearly believed he was a good deal smarter than he was and whose career had been set back by what his editor described as creative irresponsibility and drinking. When he embarked on his investigation, he was immediately out of his depth and totally underestimated the degrees of danger and deception he would encounter. On screen, this is symbolised on a number of occasions as he's seen dwarfed against an enormous dam or against the huge exterior wall of a convention hall or minimised in the centre of the frame when he's about to take the Parallax recruitment test.

Importantly, Warren Beatty is always believable as the main character in this movie which so brilliantly conveys the sense of disenchantment and paranoia which pervaded a period of time which was later seen by many as representing an end to innocence.
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Once upon a time, before Oliver Stone...
lee_eisenberg4 June 2005
In the early 1970's, distrust of the government was widespread. "The Parallax View" was one of the movies that reflected this.* Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) is a reporter who one day is covering a candidate's campaign, when the candidate is assassinated. A governmental committee concludes that there was no conspiracy. However, within three years, Joe is the only witness still alive. As he tries to investigate further, he finds himself on the run.

I'm guessing that the central idea was loosely based on the Kennedy assassination. Director Alan J. Pakula sets every scene so as to maintain a sense of impending doom. You may be uncertain as to whom you can trust after watching this movie. It's that well done. It just goes to show that the world's real horrors aren't supernatural at all.

*Others include "Three Days of the Condor" and "All the President's Men".
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Paranoia in Natural Light
jzappa24 February 2011
I don't know how to start this review of the second installment in Alan J. Pakula's virtuoso Paranoia Trilogy. I guess I'll start at the beginning. The brooding realism of the beginning is arranged with a keen sense of the vertical. The camera divulges Seattle's Space Needle tower behind a totem pole, where an assassination goes down amidst Independence Day pomp. A committee of officials, constrained by the frame, proclaims the lack of evidence of a wider conspiracy, yet these are Watergate times, and Alan J. Pakula marshals his investigation as a compulsory act of "irresponsible speculation." Gordon Willis' cinematography twists the menacing from the everyday with unreserved harshness: Overwhelming architecture, the bomb warning scrawled on a napkin, one character's last cup of coffee. All of the decade's political misgivings and introspection is concentrated into the merciless culmination, with Yankee Doodle trumpeting in the bare hall while unpleasant transactions imbue the catwalks above, a country awakening to methodical obscurity and transparency alike.

What happens to our muck-raking protagonist splinters the movie's straightforward standards and leaves the final 40 minutes or so as the most transcendent, impressionistic illustration of paranoia, not as a psychosomatic condition but more like the belief in it as an idea, that I've ever seen. The first half of Pakula's anamorphically shot impressionistic thriller is about paranoia, the second is paranoia. The movie is not that suspenseful. A lot of times, Beatty's escape from danger seems remarkably effortless, and his way of being recruited by the Parallax Corporation is less an obstacle than a convenient turning of the page to the recruitment itself. The movie is not about suspense. It's about mood and atmosphere. And when something malevolent happens, the suspense is diffused in favor of creeping through this dark, kitchen-sink world governed by power, fear and indoctrination.

Another thing at which Pakula excels, and at which he reached an indelible peak in All the President's Men, is demonstrated consistently throughout The Parallax View. People talk so very quietly in his movies. And if you think about it, if you're this scared all the time, there's no reason to talk any louder than that. And when Paula Prentiss, an estranged fellow journalist of Beatty's who believes someone is trying to kill her, does raise her voice early on in a scene she makes terrifying with a brilliant performance, it's not only rage and fear, our ears are racked with a profound desperation to escape from a silence that's turned lethal. Later, someone else will talk to Beatty, and he will say, "Who are you?" He will be so tranquil and tenderly quiet when he says it.

The evolution is realized through what I sincerely consider to be one of the very central sequences in American cinema in the 1970s, Pakula's virtuoso showpiece of Kuleshov-style perception, the indoctrination slideshow, a celestial event of imagery and keywords shot through the viewer's brains. I could describe further, but the account would be dull and futile. It's simply a conquest of film language in a way that confounds textual explanation. Beholden in no insignificant portion to the Soviet montage theory, in which solitary snippets of imagery are given implication due to the images flanking it, this is shown to us from a character's precise point-of-view. We've become him, and are undergoing exactly what he is.

Pakula shoots on location to capture a careful texture of the outside world's danger much of the time. And he has a strong feeling for the bizarre, as in a scene where a character on a golf cart is shot in a vast banquet hall, and the cart strays, knocks over tables, until police cars arrive on the vestibule floor. There's also an endeavor to enforce the glare of modern American architecture throughout as a monumental backdrop, steel and glass edifices that look somehow…oppressive.

The conclusion has a relentless common sense to it. Sans spoilers, I can merely say that it both insinuates how an establishment might get away with murder, and how the "unassisted loner" hypothesis of assassination has a convincing tidiness about it.
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Parallax View - A greatly overrated and disappointing picture?
The_TJT29 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Parallax View, starring Warren Beatty playing a reporter in Alan J Pakula's film, a couple years before ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. A film that did not enjoy success when it first was released but has apparently gained some momentum since.

I had been reading some reviews full of praise for this film. It was compared to movies about conspiracy such as Three Days of the Condor, All the President's Men, Manchurian Candidate, JFK and the Conversation. The movie has 7.4 average at IMDb and 91% at Rottentomatoes. My comparison would be POINT BLANK except this one being slightly inferior on all counts.

"A masterpiece of suspense, tension and cinematic storytelling the likes of which, sadly, Hollywood doesn't make anymore."

I'm happy that they don't. Maybe 70's seems better from distance, or from parallax viewpoint? The movie was about a reporter Joseph Frady(Beatty) tracking a conspiracy to kill high position politicians, I think...

However the plot is sort of messy and unsatisfying, questions are being unanswered and unexplained or never made. I'm not sure if this was by purpose or due to inadequate writing. In the beginning a politician is killed and shortly after possible witnesses from the crime scene are getting killed in various "accidents"...which sounds like a nice prospect for a thriller. However we are never explained why the urge to kill the witnesses in the first place? There was nothing to witness after the assassin getting killed at the event. Yes, us viewers do see that someone else was involved in assassination at the crime scene, but how would the "witnesses" know that remains a question not answered in the movie. I guess they just have to be killed, all 12? of that will make the conspiracy less noticeable for sure.

While following a "lead" for one of the witness killings, Frady eventually finds out that there may be a company called Parallax behind all this. So how to get more information on the company? - Simple, fill out a psychological test application form and send it to the company. If you're found out to be an anti-social murdering type you get an interview...because that's how hit men are really recruited. In this interview they apply some brainwash techniques, just to be on the safe side when dealing with a psychopath I guess. Although I don't see the need for a brainwash AND being a psychopath.

Anyways the problem with the movie, apart plot holes, was the long, dragging scenes. I found myself just staring at the screen thinking something unrelated. The movie never grabbed me along the attempted atmosphere...which was supposedly very "dark" and "paranoid". Actually what was "dark", was the dim lit was so dark that you could hardly see anything in many of the scenes. This is something that is typical to many films of the 70's, usually for the bottom of the barrel types. It can be used to film's advantage, but not all way through imo, especially when you're kept in the dark about what and why things are happening in the first place. Filming long and black shots does not a suspense make, it actually requires something to be suspenseful about...something along the lines of TIGHTROPE or DIRTY HARRY perhaps, where darkness was used wisely to not only in attempt to create but also to enhance existing atmosphere created by script, acting and characterization.

Talking about characters...There was no character development at all, not even for the protagonist. Other characters did get very little screen time and seemed to be irrelevant. I don't know...maybe Hackman could have pulled this off, but Beatty didn't seem to be able to.

After the movie I found myself thinking...Wow, I would have really hard time explaining the actual plot afterwards. Very unclear plot, an unnecessary bar fight scene and out of nowhere car chase. What was that boat explosion all about...How come Frady was the only one to survive and how did he get to dry land? Were there only Frady and his boss working in this newspaper? How did he know there was a bomb on the plane? Who were the people he asked about the application form? etc etc...And most importantly, why did this all happen in the first place!? It's really hard to tell since there was no character development nor explanations but rather jumping from one scene to another making it look sort of like a montage of cut scenes that were barely related. Rather hard to follow when you're in the trance state of staring and suddenly notice that it's a new scene you're watching...what happened in the last one, how did we get here...

Positives for the movie would be: -Somewhat creative brainwash scene along the lines of CLOCKWORK ORANGE -Unclear ending...was Frady actually brainwashed and an assassin himself in the end. -The way how he informs the plane crew about the bomb while not being accused himself of planting it. -And finally a scene with a chimpanzee playing Pong. Yes, you read it right, this was the highlight of the movie for me personally...

Watch The CONVERSATION or THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR instead. Former being vastly more successful on creating paranoid atmosphere and latter on suspense and having a good tight script with great pacing on keeping the suspense...NOT letting it drain away with long, pointless, disjointed and dim scenes as in PARALLAX VIEW.

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An ambitious, but ultimately dissatisfying paranoia thriller from Pakula...
moonspinner5510 August 2001
Fascinating premise gets somewhat pretentious, lugubrious treatment from acclaimed director Alan J. Pakula. Conspiracy thriller has newspaper reporter Warren Beatty investigating years-old assassination of a U.S. Senator wherein witnesses to the shooting are all mysteriously dying. Beatty gives one of his better performances here, although the scene in which he defeats a taunting deputy in a bar is fairly absurd (as is the sidebar involving a hick town built around a dam, which seems to be little more than a red herring). Gordon Willis' arty cinematography is exasperating, although a shot early on of assassin Bill McKinney looking up at the Space Needle is chilling; McKinney has few lines but suits his role well, as does Paula Prentiss in small part as a frantic 'next target'. The much-discussed 'Parallax test' (a delineation on how innocent boyhood is corrupted by sex and violence at the expense of Mom and Country) is handled with sledgehammer style, and the unhappy ending is too cynical to swallow whole. **1/2 from ****
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Visual metaphors clarify a confusing conspiracy
jminer27 July 2000
As others have said, Pakula's paranoid tale subverts the Hollywood paradigm. Creating an unreliable hero is only the beginning: it is difficult to tell who is lying, who is telling the truth - or how much of the truth they know. It's a lot more "real" than one-track plots which leave no room for doubt. I have always thought it was influenced heavily by Costa-Gavras's magnificent film Z, where conflicting versions of the central event are on display. Nevertheless, in Z, it adds up to a clear-cut conspiracy, even though not all the conspirators will be punished; here it adds up to a depressing - but again "real" - failure to get the evidence where and when it is needed (like Silkwood).

What sets it apart in my viewing, however, is the way Pakula deploys visual metaphors throughout the story, and I am disappointed that other commentators obviously haven't picked up on them. The most important of these is the setting of the central event, the assassination (on 4 July!) atop the Space Needle in Seattle. It's a circular venue. That means that each witness sees the event from a different angle: that is the very meaning of parallax. It's also why different versions of the event emerge and continue; and why some people telling the "truth" can't be reconciled with others. The opening sequence doesn't merely define "parallax" it defines the whole film.

There are many other examples, such as the hypertrophied attempt the wash the conspiracy clean by releasing a flood from a dam. Don't mistake this for a naturalistic film: it's as highly stylised as Eastwood's The Gauntlet, or Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

A collection of great writers - Lorenzo Semple Jr, Robert Towne (Chinatown)among them - put together this narrative, which is deliberately fuzzy. Many so-called film-makers would be satisfied to simply relate a script as good as that, but Pakula's films always had a visual vitality that adds a further dimension. It's supposed to be why we watch films instead of reading books. In this film, there is a valuable visual commentary on the plot, which will take the tale to the attentive viewer on another level.
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Mind-Bending, Paranoid Thriller
Eumenides_030 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The Parallax View belongs to a Golden Age of thrillers in American cinema. It seems in the '70s filmmakers couldn't get wrong with the thriller movie. It could not always be spectacular, but it always had a little touch that made it enjoyable. From this decade came The Day of the Jackal, The Conversation, Three Days of the Condor, Exquisite Corpses, Klute, Marathon Man, and many others. There was a sense of paranoia, of voyeurism, of fascination with evil that made the decade perfect for this genre.

Alan J. Pakula's paranoid thriller sometimes has a sloppy, meandering narrative; sometimes it doesn't make absolute sense; but it has that little touch, that je ne sais quoi, that makes it enjoyable.

Warren Beatty plays Joe Frady, a journalist who's seen better days. He works for a small time newspaper not because he's still great at his job, but because his boss (played by Hume Cronyn) feels sorry for him. One day Joe's old lover, Lee (Paula Prentiss) comes to him in need of help, claiming that someone is trying to kill her. Her evidence is showing him that six people related to the murder of a senator three years before have died since in mysterious circumstances. When she shows up dead too, Joe starts investigating.

His investigating takes him to the mysterious Parallax Corporation. What is its purpose? Who are the people working for it? The answers will come, but in a confused, and not particularly satisfying manner.

Beatty isn't bad here, but he's acted better.

If I had to single out the real star of the movie, I'd say it's director of photography Gordon Willis. Few DPs are as underrated as this master, but in this movie he shows why he's one of the great masters of cinematography. His camera is always inventing and innovative. Here he uses a lot of wide shots, emphasizing the growing loneliness of Joe as he becomes more and more involved in the Parallax Corporation. At other times his positioning of the camera allows him to 'split' the screen in halves and show simultaneous actions on each. The use of colors in the last minutes is unforgettable. And then there's the way he uses shadows, the way he has characters step in and out of shadows, existing in them as if it were their natural world. Willis does visual poetry here.

Judging from Klute, Pakula's previous thriller, I'd say he has problems with plot and narrative. In Klute that was compensated with a great performance by Jane Fonda. In here by Willis' work and even by the outlandish aspects of the plot, sloppy as it may be. It's not the perfect thriller, but it's an enjoyable, mind-bending one.
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Nihilism Compromises Potential Classic
Rathko10 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
'The Parallax View' has such great potential that it's almost painful to watch it fail. The first hour is a tightly scripted, beautifully paced investigation into the mysterious cause of death of several individuals present, three years earlier, at a Senator's assassination. The performances are universally sound, with that wonderfully slow, natural, almost improvised, quality that seems to be a hallmark of 'seventies cinema. The economy of dialogue and almost Kubrickesque use of wide angles and long-shots to establish Joe Frady's isolation show Pakula at the peak of his talents, all impeccably photographed by the incomparable Gordon Willis.

The Parallax Interview Film is a rightfully famous sequence; evoking contemporary concerns about the media and subliminal advertising, using the language of marketing with a strong understanding of concurrent experiments in conceptual art. The movie-within-a-movie is Orwell's Five Minute hate come to life; terrifying proof of the ease with which we can be emotionally manipulated. The Parallax Interview Film is one of the most important films to come out of American cinema in the 70's and despite it having dated over the years, is as effective and chilling as ever.

Then things take a turn for the worse. The entire story thus far has been concerned with finding why these people were murdered. The investigation leads Frady to the Parallax Corporation, where he undergoes the required brainwashing/encouragement to become an assassin. Then suddenly, all interest in the 'why' is abandoned as we rapidly follow Frady towards his inevitably tragic demise. While I fully appreciate that the outcome mirrors the general proposition that we can NEVER really know the truth and investigation is futile, there's something deeply unsatisfying about being promised a story that fails to materialize. Many questions remain unanswered and require some pretty nimble thinking on the part of the viewer to concoct explanations for what, in all truth, are probably simple plot holes.

This really is a very good movie, with a strong premise, wonderfully written and presented. However, the nihilistic urge to deny the viewer ANY explanation is a pyrrhic victory, that while honest to the story, remains emotionally unrewarding.
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The best is chilling and fascinating, and the best is at least half of it.
secondtake20 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Parallax View (1974)

Another Alan Pakula film that promises a lot and delivers at least half of that--half of a lot being not bad. Warren Beatty is a vaguely convincing renegade journalist in Seattle, on the trail of a company (Parallax) that trains and uses its employees to committee political crimes. You get this hint pretty soon into the film, and it develops step by step until Beatty is in the middle of it all. It's a thriller, half espionage, half crime (the idea puts it somewhere between, and so does the filming).

There are conventions here that are a bit usual, and maybe rightly so, like the hardboiled but eventually supportive editor, or the cops you can't trust, or of course the women at the beginning who want our leading man, one way or the other. This doesn't become a central thread, however (as it does say in the formative 1971 "Klute" or in "Three Days of the Condor" the next year). The development of the leading man who has to go loner against something bigger than himself, is a usable scenario (maybe seen earliest in the New Hollywood era in "Point Blank" in 1967), but it isn't developed with as much savvy as you need to give it its aura and mystery. The photographer here, interestingly, is the great Gordon Willis, who seems to dominate increasingly as the film goes on, until the brilliant scenes on the plane, and the final broad scenes in a convention hall.

This could have been as intensely action-adventure as the "French Connection" or (much later) the Bourne films. Or it could have developed the psychology of Beatty's journalist with greater subtlety. The plot is in a way an assemblage of separate scenes--the fabulous opening sequence, the awkward (and absurd) fistfight in the mountain bar, the drowning and near drowning scene (with a complete indifference to the warning siren), and so on. It sounds exciting, it should be both chilling and scary.

But between Beatty, who lacks some edge he needs, and Pakula, who thinks too much about effect and sensation, it mostly works but misses something great. And it's worth saying, because it has the elements there for something great. Which makes it worth watching, no doubt at all, and clearly the ending is ambiguous in an attempt to be profound. I actually get the sense it resorts to this final strange scene as a last resort, but it does work, the way people seem to know the danger is gone, standing as a group, even though there is no reason for them to know. It isn't feasible, for sure, but it's eerie enough to work.
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Makes Bourne Identity look like kiddie stuff
wikipediacabal16 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The Bourne Identity is a reasonable starting point for a comparison. Both films are smart action thrillers about assassination. Both downplay the violence a bit and instead use substantial characters and an intelligent script to provide much of the menace instead of set piece fights. But the Bourne franchise, the best of its kind today, looks cartoonishly simple in comparison to this masterpiece. It is a top 100 movie of all time and a demonstration of what can happen when a Hollywood level of budget and craftsmanship is combined with an Indie or Brit sensibility and a limitless supply of good taste and sophistication in movie-making.

Pakula shows great respect for the intelligence of the audience and never over explains what is happening. This is a fine line to walk and the decisions here show mastery of that touchy subject. The closing scene is the closest we get to a wrap-up and it doesn't go too far, I thought.

Governments, including the US government, really do practice assassination on a grand scale at times, and they cover up assassinations and manipulate mass media and bomb airplanes and do all the extreme things that happen in this film. That is a historical fact and it is what makes this script so scary: the movie bad guy is real and he has blood on his hands. This isn't a supernatural story or one that takes place in a simpler reality. The story happens in our world and does a good job of being plausible in broad outlines.

I don't think this film would be made today. In the era of corporate control of the studios, no one would spend this kind of money on a movie with a cynical perspective that does so little to pander to the audience. If a project like this one were being developed today, it would be softened and sweetened and would lose what made it wonderful. Something like Inception is the closest we have gotten recently.
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Pretentious paranoia serves self-absorbed Beatty best
adrian-4376724 January 2019
In "STAR," the biography of Warren Beatty, biographer Peter Biskind explains how Beatty had just been involved in assisting Senator McGovern's campaign to become the Democratic Party candidate against then President Richard Nixon, who re-elected in 1972 on a landslide.

According to Biskind, Beatty was at that point in his life an incurably self-centered and self-absorbed philanderer and tight-fisted would-be politician who realized that acting and producing was far easier, but who learned enough from the 1971/2 election campaigns to see that a movie could profitably be made out of all those hysterical and dramatic times, set against the backdrop of the war in Vietnam. Perhaps PARALLAX's greatest triumph is that it came out at about the same time as the Watergate case loomed large in the news, which certainly bolstered its box office performance.

Yet, according to Biskind, PARALLAX only went ahead because Beatty was in a "play-or-play" position and, true to his character, he did not want to pay. So production began without a script and in the midst of a writers' strike in Hollywood, but Pakula liked chaos and cunningly judged it an opportunity, in light of ongoing political developments in the US.

As a film, PARALLAX has an interesting premise, with reporters who watched an assassination being steadily assassinated themselves, leaving only Frady (Beatty) on the run, and he just survives the whole nefarious and sinister affair but the film ends on an unconnected compilation of stills which are meant to be significant but which just highlight the gargantuan ambitiousness of a film that simply does not have the script, the direction or the actors, to make a cogent statement.

At his own imposition, Beatty was always shot in a manner that enhanced his good looks, from angles that he would personally endorse, regardless of Pakula's vision, and that caused some friction between the two men . but nothing that Beatty couldn't bend to his gain.

In "STAR," Biskind recalls that "in one scene, Beatty does nothing more complicated than sit at a table stirring soup. He did take after take to just get the right amount of steam coming off the soup." The working team labelled that take "Warren Stirs Soup - Take 98."

Photography is probably the least bad thing about PARALLAX, which I have now watched twice, and have found jarring, annoying, and - to me, the capital sin in any bad movie - pretentious. Three stars for the stirring small part played by Paula Prentiss, the photography and the attempt to reflect the paranoia of the day.
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A ridiculous story with some nice cinematography
h-christen20 January 2017
What a ridiculous movie. If you try to follow what is happening your head begins to spin. Is it a movie from the early seventies when directors were still on acid? There is no head or tail, when it is finished you ask yourself "What was that all about?" Well, there was a head and tail, but it didn't make sense. Only for the paranoid minds perhaps...

I must admit, the cinematography was good. It reminded me in the ending of Playtime from Jaques Tati, but that doesn't make it a good movie. The story was a mess in my opinion, and our hero just hopped from one scene in another without any coherence. I have nothing against a conspiracy thriller, but make it intelligent and thrilling, this was boring and impossible to follow the actions of the main character.

If you haven't seen it yet, do not read further!


There is an assassination on a certain senator Carrol. Austin Tucker is his adviser. Witnesses are a television reporter Lee among many others. 3 years! later Lee comes to newspaper reporter Frady, hysterically claiming they want to kill her. Already six witnesses were killed according to her. And of course she is killed not long after this meeting, so Frady dives deeper. He gets into an awful bar fight with a deputy, but the sheriff sits just grinning: well done boy... After that it seems like Frady and the sheriff are well known buddies for a long time. But the sheriff wants to kill him (why?), which doesn't work, quite the opposite, so Frady breaks into the sheriffs house and finds something about Parallax!

After a meeting with some guy that plays a computer game with an ape he does a ridiculous test in a chair in the parallax company. After that he is suddenly in a plane and tries to write something about a bomb with soap on a mirror and suddenly he is home again. In the meantime his head editor from the newspaper is murdered by a food delivery guy. What the ...

Everything appears to be happening suddenly, with no reason, background, motive, or how it is possible. For instance, he is suddenly on a boat with Austin Tucker, (how did he find him?) Austin and his bodyguard smile at each other as if they were going to kill Frady, but suddenly the boat explodes and Frady is blown into the water and the next moment he is safe at the office of the newspaper. How the h... did he manage to do that? Is he a well trained ocean swimmer and a bomb survivor? Who placed the bomb and why? And so on and so on...

Then he is supposed to meet his handler, (undercover) Ben Harkins, but in the hotel he gives Ben some weird instructions, to go to Hawaii. Then he asks for a mister Jack Younger the fellow who recruited him for parallax. Then some guys from security, or fake security, (I don't mind, my head spins already) watch him, ... And suddenly we have to watch a march band and a mysterious Mr Hammond is killed.

A committee decided that Frady was responsible for the murder of Hammond, just like they decided who was responsible of the murder of senator Carrol in the beginning. Curtain...

As we in The Netherlands say, I couldn't make chocolate of it...
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Unorthodox Journalist, In Way over His Head, Is Groomed for Liquidation
romanorum114 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Senator Charles Carroll is assassinated during a luncheon on Independence Day in the Seattle Space Needle. There are two culprits (both dressed as waiters), but the one who did not do the actual shooting is trapped on the Needle roof by security guards and quickly falls to his death. The other escapes and reports to an unseen party that the job was completed. A few months later the investigative committee, which allows no questions, states that the assassin acted alone. Case closed. Over the next three years six of the witnesses die in assorted ways. A reporter who was present during the assassination expresses her concerns to Oregon (Portland) investigative reporter Joe Frady, who brushes her off. When she is found dead a few days later in her apartment, a coroner states that the cause of death was an overdose of barbiturates. Frady, now skeptical, convinces his editor-boss, Bill Rintels, to allow him to further investigate the events concerning the Carroll assassination.

Frady drives to a small Washington town, where a witness died while fishing in a creek near a dam. After winning minor battles – a bar room fight and a car chase – Frady has gathered documents about the Parallax Corporation. He reports his findings to an incredulous Rintels. Frady, though, submits a "doctored" application with an alias (Richard Parton) to Parallax. Shortly after Frady meets with Austin Tucker, a former Carroll aide, who is most distressed about two assassination attempts on his life. Tucker takes Brady on his sailboat where he explains his concerns about the Carroll assassination cover-up. He shows Frady a photo of the second Carroll assassin, the surviving waiter. Right after the boat explodes and all aboard die except for Frady, who jumps off in time into the water. He returns to Rintels, who now forms a pact with Frady. The latter goes undercover.

In Los Angeles a representative of the Parallax Corporation, who wants Frady to join the company, visits him. Going to the company HQ for testing, Frady is shown a special room where brainwashing techniques are employed. Words, photos, and images are used to chilling effect. They begin with good and positive words and images: LOVE … MOTHER … COUNTRY ... GOD … HAPPINESS … FATHER – but then there is a mixture: Hitler … CASTRO … HOME … ME … COUNTRY … ENEMY … SEX … NIXON … POLICE … CHEERLEADER … OSWALD – ending with mostly bad: KKK … Hitler … GUNS … Satan … CROWDS … GRAVES … FLOWERS … (crescendo). When the test is complete, Frady leaves the building for the day. He spots the Carroll assassin and tails him to the airport, where the killer checks himself with a briefcase onto an airplane to Chicago. Frady manages to get aboard, but the assassin never embarks. Knowing that the briefcase is on board and spotting a prominent political figure, Frady believes that the briefcase has a bomb. Through various means he is successful in getting the plane to return to the airport, after which it blows up, but not before all have safely disembarked.

In LA, Frady is contacted by the Parallax official, who then offers him a job with a good salary. The official, though, has concerns about Frady's alias and other statements on the application, and he intends to investigate further. Fearing that his real name and purpose may be found out, Frady mails incriminating information to Rintels, who now knows that the reporter is onto a big story. Rintels though is soon poisoned (officially a heart attack) and the evidence disappears. This scene is important because it shows that the syndicate is onto Frady.

Unaware of the editor's murder, and now on his own, Frady spots the Carroll assassin and follows him to the LA Convention Center. There Frady sees other Parallax personnel. Meanwhile Senator George Hammond is practicing for a youth rally, and a marching band is present. As Hammond rides on a golf cart onto the convention floor, an assassin on an overhead walkway guns him down with a rifle. The onlookers see Frady nearby and think that he killed Hammond. But Frady chases after the assassin, who, wheeling about, fires!

A few months later the investigative committee brings forth its findings: George Hammond was assassinated by Joe Frady. "There is no evidence in any conspiracy in the death of George Hammond."
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A masterpiece of tone
charles_highway-110 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
As a dry run for Pakula's masterpiece and the possibly the best American film of the Seventies "All the President's Men," the movie works best as a mood piece. With incredibly long takes, amazing wide shots, and masterful use of darkness and light, it's a treasure to look at. Cinematography usually can't save a film, but it does here. Warren Beatty is little more that a fantastic haircut and movie star charisma and the screenplay is disjointed and undercooked. For a big-budget American studio film, answers and motivations are thin on the ground. There are no character arcs here. Beside's Beatty and his put-upon, but supportive editor Hume Cronyn, every other character is a killer or a victim. There's something to be said for that and I'm sure it's intentional, but it may leave modern audiences wanting more.

But if you can forget about that, The Parralax View is a real treat for anyone who doesn't like their plot mashed up and served room temperature. The audience sees only a little more than Beatty's reporter and usually learns what's going on just as he does. He is confused and not quite sure of what he's on to, and neither are we. It's a wonderful distillation of all the fear and burgeoning mistrust of the government and the establishment that gripped America in the fallout of Watergate. "All the President's Men" is a better film. Better acted, better written, and more engaging because it was news just a few years earlier. The Parralax View however is creepier, more deeply pessimistic, and far more unsettling.
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