Alan Pakula’s The Parallax View, the defining conspiracy film of the seventies, plays on Turner Classic Movies this weekend. I wrote on the film for the TCM website:
Warren Beatty stars as investigative reporter Joe Frady, though when we first glimpse him in the film he’s merely a face in the crowd around Senator Charles Carroll (William Joyce). He tries to bluff his way into an exclusive gathering for the Senator at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle but is rebuffed and thus on the ground when the Senator is shot and the gunman killed in an escape attempt. “There is no evidence of a conspiracy,” concludes a panel of judges, who proclaim it the work of a lone gunman. (We, of course, know there was at least one accomplice who slipped to safety.) It’s the film’s answer to the Warren Commission and Pakula shoots the tribunal floating in a sea of shadow, a tiny image that slowly, ominously grows larger as the credits roll. By the end of the sequence, they fill the screen with an image as distorted as their conclusions.
The film, based on a novel by Loren Singer, is most assuredly of its time. Pakula described the film as “sort of an American myth based on some things that have happened, some fantasies we may have had of what might have happened, and a lot of fears a lot of us have had.” The story comes right out of the suspicion with which many Americans viewed the Warren Commission investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the growing cottage industry of conspiracy theories of organized plots and high-level cover-ups. The atmosphere of suspicion and corruption could be Pakula’s response to the growing public distrust of government, brought to a head by the revelations of criminal misconduct by the Nixon administration (which Pakula tackled directly in his subsequent film, All the President’s Men, 1976).
Read the complete piece on TCM here.