Not quite halfway through The Parallax View, the film loses its footing. Director Pakula keeps the audience a good three car lengths from not just the action of the film–with long shots in Panavision–but also understanding the action of the film. Parallax even goes so far to introduce protagonist Warren Beatty with a proverbial wink.
But Beatty isn’t a traditional protagonist. Screenwriters Dean Giler and Lorenzo Semple Jr. don’t just keep viewers from passing judgement on Beatty, the writers keep viewers from even thinking they might want to think about the character at all. Beatty moves through the film just fine, but he’s being endearingly indignant or running most of the time. It’s not a hard job.
It’s especially not a hard job since a lot of the effectiveness comes through due to the technical aspects of Parallax. Gordon Willis’s photography is amazing, even if Pakula does mostly utilize the right side of the frame for action; the left tends to be for setting information and the shots are beautiful, just beautiful with too much free space.
John W. Wheeler’s editing is also of note. Every cut in Parallax, which is always trying to surprise the viewer–whether with big conspiracy stuff or, in the first half, Beatty’s roguish behavior–and it works thanks to Wheeler.
Well, Wheeler and composer Michael Small. Parallax’s a cynical take on a patriotic hero story; Small’s music plays to it sincerely.
Parallax may have its problems, but it’s also gorgeous filmmaking.
Produced and directed by Alan J. Pakula; screenplay by David Giler and Lorenzo Semple Jr., based on the novel by Loren Singer; director of photography, Gordon Willis; edited by John W. Wheeler; music by Michael Small; production designer, George Jenkins; released by Paramount Pictures.
Starring Warren Beatty (Joseph Frady), Paula Prentiss (Lee Carter), William Daniels (Austin Tucker), Walter McGinn (Jack Younger), Hume Cronyn (Bill Rintels), Kelly Thordsen (Sheriff L.D. Wicker), Chuck Waters (Thomas Richard Linder), Earl Hindman (Deputy Red), Anthony Zerbe (Prof. Nelson Schwartzkopf) and William Joyce (Senator Charles Carroll).