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THE PARALLAX VIEW, JFK, RFK, etc.


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"In part one [my interview begins after a verrrrry slow eight-minute introduction -- JM], noted film historian Joseph McBride returns to the show to give his thoughts on The Parallax View as well as to discuss the film in the context of the Kennedy assassination, the Nixon Presidency and Watergate, and the rise of New Hollywood. He also offers some personal stories about The Parallax View‘s director Alan J. Pakula, discusses the technical aspects of the film such as the lauded cinematography done by Gordon Willis, and much, much more."

Edited by Joseph McBride
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Pakula: "I know that, but I can't think about it because I'll go crazy."  

Deep Throat was a composite.

The Parallax View  is one of the best American films of the seventies.  Talk about well made.  Beautifully acted by everyone involved: Beatty, Cronyn, Daniels, Mars, and for Paula P, her best ever.  The directing, editing and photography are all simply first rate.

The first time I saw it with that Warren Commission closing, in quasi silhouette, with the spokesman looking like McCloy, I just sat there for about three minutes.  Thinking: "That's America.  That's how the system works."

Edited by James DiEugenio
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Posted (edited)

Alan Pakula didn't tell me he *knew* Bob Woodward was CIA.  I asked him 

during the making of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN if he had heard that, based on information I had been given by a friend who was an RFK assassination

researcher, who didn't realize back then that Woodward was/is ONI instead. Pakula's actual reply to me was, "I've heard that, but if

I think about it while making this movie, I'll go crazy."

When I later told Pakula that I had slipped into a projection room in the Warners editing building

one night and watched him and Redford, by themselves near the front, screening rushes for the film (ten

takes of the scene between Redford and Hoffman browbeating an indignant woman

reporter in going after ex-lover Ken Clawson to get a document; all the takes

were different emphases with the same dialogue, fascinating to watch). When

I revealed to Pakula that I'd been there and offered a brief analysis of what I had seen, he grinned and said, "I'll tell Bob. He'll go crazy."

Deep Throat is a character that was suggested to Bernstein & Woodward (Bernstein received top billing on the book) by their

agent, Alice Mayhew, after she read the first draft, in which no such character

appears. Yes, it's a composite of all the various intelligence sources Woodward

had. Their identification of the the senile ex-FBI official Mark Felt as supposedly being Deep Throat was, in Watergate lingo, a "modified, limited

hangout," since it's likely he was (just) one of their sources.

Edited by Joseph McBride
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Funny as heck.

Pakula sounded like a pretty cool guy.

His career never really fulfilled itself though.  He made some really bad pictures later.   And I am pretty sure that The Devil's Own was Gordon Willis' last film.  Brad Pitt complained about that one saying the script revisions got worse and worse. They should have shot the first draft.

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Posted (edited)

It's sad how Alan Pakula died. In 1998, when he was 70, he was driving on the Long Island Expressway, and a driver

ahead of him struck a metal pipe that flew through his windshield and killed him. He was a sophisticated, well-read,

and civilized man, very un-Hollywood. I enjoyed talking with him. Before directing he

produced films for director Robert Mulligan, including FEAR STRIKES OUT (I liked

that book as a kid), TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER,

INSIDE DAISY CLOVER, etc. KLUTE and SOPHIE'S CHOICE are some of the excellent films Pakula directed.

His comment to me on Woodward shows his savvy but the limits of

how far he wanted to go or could go (Billy Wilder's THE FRONT PAGE

from 1974 can be read as a satire of the media frenzy over Woodward & Bernstein

and is a strong indictment of the callousness and dishonesty of the press; Wilder was an old reporter from his Vienna

and Berlin days and saw through at least some of the Washington Post BS). I am fortunately out of the movie racket, but I thought someone should do an honest film about Woodward & Bernstein. My friend Rod Lurie, a former film

critic who is now a writer-director (I helped get him into the LA Film Critics

Association after he was blackballed over some of his reviews) says

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN is his favorite movie. I finally suggested he remake

it and tell the truth (I stay away assiduously from working on movies myself). He didn't want to do it, of course.

THE POST is a terrible movie, as you know, swallowing the Kool-Aid about the Post and gorging on it

(Pakula and Redford wanted to cast Lauren Bacall as Katharine Graham, but Graham

refused to be portrayed in the film). Oliver Stone's superb, underrated

NIXON does deal with Watergate extensively and serves as a corrective. Most

reviewers missed the subtle JFK conspiracy connections in that film. I gave it a rare

five stars when I reviewed it as the first film I reviewed for Boxoffice. I dropped

a note to Stone suggesting he do LBJ to complete a presidential trilogy, but

to my surprise he wrote back and said LBJ never interested him.

Edited by Joseph McBride
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As you and the host talked about on the show, The Parallax View  was not as well reviewed as it should have been upon its release.

I think that it was just too daring in its subject matter.  Because it was not case specific, like Executive Action was, plus it was a major studio film, it seemed to kind of jump the shark. But, to me, it was a wonderful example of making fiction real. Whereas as you say, the MSN had turned real cases into fiction.

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One thing about Stone's NIXON I wonder about is why the absolutely essential, pivotal,

and brilliant scene with Richard Helms (Sam Waterson) being confronted by Nixon over

documentation re the Kennedy assassination ("the whole Bay of Pigs thing," in Nixon's code for that subject) and over

control over the CIA was not in the release version. It is in the director's cut on homevideo.

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1 hour ago, Joseph McBride said:

One thing about Stone's NIXON I wonder about is why the absolutely essential, pivotal,

and brilliant scene with Richard Helms (Sam Waterson) being confronted by Nixon over

documentation re the Kennedy assassination ("the whole Bay of Pigs thing," in Nixon's code for that subject) and over

control over the CIA was not in the release version. It is in the director's cut on homevideo.

I've only seen the director's cut.  Any information about why that scene was omitted from the release version?

Another critical scene in the film (for JFKA related issues, I presume) is when Anthony Hopkins says, "If Dick Nixon is going down, EVERYONE is going down..."

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One of the most utterly brilliant sequences in modern American film. All done with stills and editing. The Parallax View is one of the best edited and photographed films of that decade.

The lighting around Beatty in the opening and ending part of this sequence is like the lighting around the two panels at the beginning and ending of  the film. 

As Joe pointed out in the interview, Pakula was a fan of the director of Shane, George Stevens. You can see Ladd in the montage.

I Love the opening shot of the film of the space needle.

 

Edited by James DiEugenio
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Posted (edited)

I noticed on my latest viewing that the saloon fight in

THE PARALLAX VIEW is also a homage to the one in SHANE.

The one in the Pakula film always struck me as too cartoonish for the film that surrounds it,

unlike the magnificently choreographed and powerfully visceral fight in SHANE, but I see what Pakula was driving at a bit more,

even if I still think it's a flaw in the film (like the near-drowning battle in the dam and the car chase; those seem sops to the studio and the boxoffice).

Once those are out of the way, the film keeps relentlessly on its track. And the opening part is gripping. The assassination, the

depiction of the Beatty character's messy life, the visit from the scared-out-of-her-wits Paula Prentiss -- and the jump

cut to her body in the morgue is a real shocker that propels Beatty on his quest (as well as a homage to Penn Jones). Pakula pointed out that the film begins with a totem pole

and then reveals the Space Needle, a kind of modern totem pole, behind it. The

film is fascinating visually as well as thematically; the mood it creates with both aspects is suitably

eerie and disturbing. The off-kilter compositions and often strange editing create

a feeling that you never quite know what's around the corner.

Edited by Joseph McBride
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Have watched a half dozen short scene clips of the film since last night. I've seen the film once or twice before. Will be watching it in it's entirety again later today.

Edited by Joe Bauer
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I didn't want to comment until I re watched it.  I'd seen it once about 35 years ago I believe on cable, for me at the time that means on a20' TV.  It kind of jumped out at us at 50" with so much greater resolution than my 80's TV.  As mentioned in the pod cast the colors are bright.  It's outstanding throughout.  I really wish now I had seen it when it came out on the big screen my senior year in high school in a theater.  I loved drive ins but some movies are meant for a theater, this is one.  It would have been an eye opener at 18, it still is.

The Senator being shot on the west coast with a pistol made me think instantly of RFK.  Another telling line, I don't remember the exact words, but Beatty is scoffing at the female reporters fears in his motel room says words to the effect of assassinations happening every time you turn around.  JFK - MLK - RFK.  Then the ending.  Beatty coming to realize he is the patsy, trapped, killed.  Like what was supposed to have happened to Oswald.

I loved the bar fight.  Who doesn't like seeing a redneck get his ass kicked?  I laughed at Beatty coming diving though the second window so late.  I've always loved Shane.  My mothers favorite western.  She'd watch it every time they re ran it.

 

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As Joe said, that opening shot of the totem pole, then the camera moves, so beautifully suggestive and symbolic.

That is what parallax means, how an object can be displaced by two different lines of sight.

So that is what you see in that first shot, plus the added suggestiveness of a totem pole denoting some kind of magic. Which is what many have called the RFK murder, a magic trick.  The editing in that murder scene is just first rate, the shot of Paula P through the glass with the blood smeared  in front of her face is, for me, an icon.

 

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