Alan Pakula’s The Parallax View was one of those iconic 70s films that I had never seen. But I watched it the other day. I know that for some this film is iconic, but I thought it pretty half-baked. First, anyone watching 70s cinema realized the extent to which the assassination of the Kennedys (much more than King, who I think is usually added on to the assassination trilogy but which I think had a much lower impact among whites at the time since most of them hated him; MLK died with a 25 percent approval rating among whites) broke the minds of a lot of liberals. I’m not necessarily blaming them for this but it affected the filmmaking in ways that wasn’t nearly as interesting in hindsight as it seemed at the time. I’ve never been a big fan of The Conversation. Less well-remembered, but in this genre too is the bizarrely cast Winter Kills (Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Anthony Perkins, Eli Wallach, Sterling Hayden, Tomas Milan, and Toshiro Mifune for god’s sake) which is kind of interesting but is a failure at the same time. Also MIFUNE PLAYS NO MAN’S SERVANT!!!! Anyway, The Parallax View is certainlky better than Winter Kills, but I think it isn’t all that successful. The plot holes are enormous. The Beatty character is completely one-dimensional. And the psychopath training video, which is supposed to show the damage television causes to home, family, and religion, well, I thought this was laughably bad. And yet some people think this is an amazing scene. I do not get it at all.
It should be noted that while The Parallax View was generally well-reviewed at the time, there were a lot of leading critics I respect who noted that this is a fine movie but one with a whole lotta problems. And I agree. This certainly isn’t a bad film. It just doesn’t age well. In an era that is even more evil than the 1970s, the conspiracy side of the world seems a bit dated. I think that’s because today’s evil is no conspiracy. It’s just there. They don’t care if we know it. Perhaps that affected my view of the film. Perhaps the atmosphere–and this is a film that is all about atmosphere–didn’t sit well with me. The music was also extremely obvious. So, you know, meh.
Here is the supposedly brilliant psychopath training scene.