Parallax View, The (1974)

There is no conspiracy. Just twelve people dead.

Original Title : The Parallax View
Director : Alan J. Pakula
Writer : David Giler
Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Loren Singer
Robert Towne
Genre : Thriller
Country : USA
Language : English
Producer : Robert Jiras , Gabriel Katzka , Charles H. Maguire , Alan J. Pakula
Music : Michael Small (I)
Photography : Gordon Willis
IMDB ID : 0071970
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poster for "Parallax View, The" by Alan J. Pakula (1974)
Parallax View, The (1974) - Alan J. Pakula


Warren Beatty Joseph Frady
Hume Cronyn Bill Rintels
William Daniels I
Kenneth Mars Former FBI Agent Will
Walter McGinn Jack Younger
Kelly Thordsen Sheriff L.D. Wicker
Jim Davis I
Bill McKinney Parallax Assassin
William Jordan I
Edward Winter Senator Jameson
Earl Hindman Deputy Red
Bill Joyce Senator Charles Carroll
Stacy Keach Sr. Commission Spokesman
Ford Rainey Commission Spokesman
Jo Ann Harris Chrissy (Frady's girl
Doria Cook-Nelson Gale from Salmon Tail (as Doria Cook
Bettie Johnson Mrs. Charles Carroll
Chuck Waters Thomas Richard Linder
Alma Beltran Joy Holder
Richard Bull Parallax Goon
Suzanne Cohane Stewdardess
Ronda Copland Girl
Joe Di Reda Ralph Scoletta (as Joseph Di Reda
Patsy Garrett Woman
Ted Gehring Schecter (hotel clerk
Penelope Gillette Woman
Joan Lemmo Organist
Robert P. Lieb Senator Gillingham (as Robert Lieb
Lee Pulford Shirley (Salmon Tail bar girl
William Swan Herbert Moon
John S. Ragin Buster Himan
Vernon Weddle Harry Lutz
Paula Prentiss Lee Carter
Steve Kelley I
Anthony Zerbe Schwartzkopf (uncredited


Joe Frady is a determined reporter who often needs to defend his work from colleagues. After the assasination of a prominent U.S. senator, Frady begins to notice that reporters present during the assasination are dying mysteriously. After getting more involved in the case, Frady begins to realize that the assasination was part of a conspiracy somehow involving the Parallax Corporation, an enigmatic therapy institute. He then decides to enroll for the Parallax therapy himself to discover the truth.


There are some films of which the more one reads, without actually seeing them, the more of a mythical status they grow in one's mind.THE PARALLAX VIEW was one such for me.It sounded great, subversive in the Hollywood mainstream - a rich, disturbing title that had you reaching for your dictionary, the celebrated unhappy ending, the ideological deconstruction, the bleak stylishness, the transcending of the conspiracy thriller genre into something much more frightening and metaphysical.In the end, PARALLAX is all these things and less, its failure largely due to Pakula's direction, which favours modish pessimism articulated through modish technique over the genuinely unsettling. The film opens on Independence Day, with a maverick senator and his wife attending a party with journalists, celebrities, politicians, businessmen. During a speech, the senator is murdered - the assassin hurled mysteriously off the huge tower.A government commission finds that he was a lone killer, in spite of press suggestions of a conspiracy.Three years later, Joseph Frady, an ex-alcoholic journalist, whose editor refuses to publish his narcotic exposes because of unethical investigation, is visited by Lee Carter, a news reporter present at the assassination.She fears for her life because six other witnesses have since died in mysterious accidents. Frady laughs this off as paranoia. The next morning Carter is found dead, and Frady begins investigating her claims.While looking for a missing businessman, he is nearly murdered by a corrupt sherrif.In the latter's house he finds papers belonging to the Parallax organisation, a shadowy entity recruiting assassins based on anti-social aggressivity.Presumed dead after the businessman's boat he was on is bombed, Frady decides to infiltrate Parallax by becoming an employee. It's hard to believe that there was once a time - the 70s - when major studios funded, and large audiences attended, formally difficult films that critiqued everything narrative Hollywood cinema - heroes, coherence, victory of capitalism etc. - had supposedly been offering.PARALLAX is one of the major anti-detective films made in the wake of VERTIGO, BLOW-UP and THE SPIDER'S STRATEGEM, in which the figure of the rational, problem-solving detective, who restores order to society, is replaced by a detective who gets sucked in by the crime, and instead of restoring order, fragments it, losing his own identity in the process (see also THE LONG GOODBYE, THE CONVERSATION, NIGHT MOVES). Frady begins as a conventional enough detective: drinking problems, daring, successful with beautiful women, good in a fist-fight, adept at car chases, skilled at finding clues, generally quick-witted and versatile.In a police station, accused of drug-traffiking, he is able to cut through the chaotic babble with a shout that restores order.Yet even from his bizarre introduction (what IS his relationship with Carter?Why does she deny him?), he is not in control of his plot, lost in Gordon Willis' excessively murky interiors, or getting lost in his self-made pseudonymous web. One of the princple ways a film displays the power of the detective is by aligning itself with his point of view - we follow him searching for clues, interviewing witnesses etc.Frady is denied that privilege here.A parallax refers to a perceived change in an object when the looker changes his vantage point, and point of view is highly unstable in this film, frequently distanced from its hero, but attached to no-one, suggesting the shadowy powers Frady fails to uncover. One of the film's visual motifs is the movement from darkness to light - Frady is a journalist whose job is to unravel, reveal, enlighten.Yet every revelation he makes only serves to further conceal the nefarious goings-on - if anything, we are less sure of what's going on, who controls overall power, who is implicated.The government commission is certainly involved in covering up - these 'truth' finders are shrouded in darkness, refuse to answer questions, looked over by an ominously Nazi-looking eagle, their pew, as my wife points out, looks like a funeral casket. But who is their paymaster?Unlike most conservative regimes, which insist on people being fixed in their proper place, this regime thrives on uncertainty and dissolution.It makes it easier to get rid of awkward people.When Frady finally reaches the light, he finds only his death, giving his quest an ironically religious dimension - there is no salvation here. The ungraspable power is represented in many ways - by the huge faceless tumescent buildings with impermeable windows (artifice and geometry squeezing out humanity and difference), the difference in point of view between the ground-level reality of ordinary people and the unseen god's eye of...who?Perspective is distorted through space - impossible levels divide 'us' from 'them' - see especially the remarkable star-spangled sequence of final assassination.Their power is exercised through shocking sensations disrupting the calm murk, they are like gods playing with flies. Frady's final move towards dissolution occurs when he undertakes a test for the Parallax organisation.Shrouded in black, he watches a short film which consists of clearcut concepts - Me, Family, Country, Hate, etc. - linked to appropriate, culturally conditioned images. The montage speeds up, and becomes less coherent, images and titles lose their original meanings, more subversive connections are made.Patriotism soon becomes linked to murder and self-hate.The clear-cut is denied, subversion and confusion are celebrated.It could almost be the work of left-wing radicals, yet is in the service of fascistic forces.It has a hypnotic feel that bypasses reason, encourages amorphousness, and ironically, conformity, loss of the self.This film, and its result, are truly terrifying, making us forgive PARALLAX any of its flaws.