October 11, 2008

"The Parallax View."

A famous sequence from the highly esteemed political movie (which you can see tonight, free, at Cinematheque, in Madison):



Glenn Erickson has a lot to say about this part of the film, which constitutes an audition and a psychological test (for Warren Beatty, at his hunkiest).

17 comments:

Original George said...

What a grim movie. Bleak. Even co-star Paula 'Stepford' Prentiss was freaking out.

In 1974, the Dow fell 45 percent to 577 from its 1973 peak.

That was also the year of "Death Wish" "The Conversation" "Chinatown" "Earthquake" "Godfather II" "Magnum Force" "Texas Chainsaw" "The Odessa File" and "Lenny."

Pakula also gave us the cheerful 'Klute' and "All the President's Men" which launched the current plague of blow-dried journalists. (Blame him, not Greenspan.)

In the movie, Beatty--a stupid reporter who thinks he's smart--also takes another psychological test that's actually become so commonplace people don't think twice about it.

Zeb Quinn said...

I saw this in the theater back in the day. IIRC it wasn't all that "highly esteemed," except within a narrow set. It was a somewhat entertaining movie in a very paranoiac way, appealing mainly to audienced who viewed the world that way.

Paul Snively said...

I think "Brazil" is the best dark perspective on government and society yet set to film. The Criterion Collection 3-DVD set sits proudly on my shelf. Next to it is my copy of "Pi," also highly recommended for those who enjoy a good business vs. government conspiracy tail.

So when I saw "The Parallax View" some years back, I was eager. I have to say, as a piece of filmmaking, it's extremely good for all of the visual-set reasons articulated in the link. Unfortunately, the crucial movie psych-test/propaganda scene didn't work for me at all. In fact, I found it just laughable, in much the same way that, at least in retrospect, I found all of the concern over subliminal advertising laughable. Is anyone really so easily suggestible as to have their fundamental world-view significantly affected by such content? The Amazing Kreskin was never that successful. And if this were a serious possibility, would we have elections that were almost exactly 50/50, right down the middle? Or is this only the case because there's a Parallax View and an Anti-Parallax View, both of whom are roughly equally effective?

What silliness.

Paul Snively said...

"Conspiracy tale," that should be. Time for my first coffee...

Revenant said...

The movie just seemed too ridiculous to me. I've never been able to tolerate these films where a zillion conspirators act in perfect concert with one another to control the situation. It is a cheat -- the modern-day bureaucratic version of a deus ex machina. It can't happen in real life; alien invasions are much more believable, in comparison.

Revenant said...

For a GOOD conspiracy film, on the other hand, check out "Z".

Original George said...

I've been watching Bill Moyers interview George Soros about his new book.

Obama supporter Soros says he doesn't like Treasury Secretary Paulson. Why? Because his "financial engineering...has gotten us into this trouble" and "government should play a smaller role." The future is bright, though; Soros says global warming "requires big investment."

Soros knows nothing about engineering financial markets. He short sold $10 billion in British pounds causing a devaluation of that currency. I'm sure he doesn't have a financial stake in companies whose businesses will prosper from global warming fears.

Moyers doesn't mention that Soros supports Obama or ask anything about Soros' investments. He nods and looks smart.

You have to dig deep to learn that Moyers participated in the "Rolling Thunder" meetings at the White House in 1965. (That was the three-year bombing campaign in Vietnam.) He was LBJ's press secretary. He sold the war to the press. So trustworthy!

What is a conspiracy but a breathing together? For most people, it's one big snore. Zzzzzz.

blake said...

I'm trying to imagine a context in which that scene--all six minutes of it--would be effective, and they all involve being stoned.

I've always passed up watching that movie, and now I'm particularly glad.

Sort of amusingly, I imagine that seemed like it was a fast set of imagery at the time, toward the end. Modern filmmakers deal in frame counts and the audience sees them. (Like the single frames used in Fight Club.)

It's quaint. I can't imagine a modern person reacting to it anymore than they would 1931's Frankenstein.

zeek said...

Paul Snively said...

Unfortunately, the crucial movie psych-test/propaganda scene didn't work for me at all. In fact, I found it just laughable, in much the same way that, at least in retrospect, I found all of the concern over subliminal advertising laughable. Is anyone really so easily suggestible as to have their fundamental world-view significantly affected by such content?


I haven't seen The Parallax View in years but wasn't the point of that scene to identify already sociopathic individuals which the organization was recruiting for assassination purposes? It was part of a test, along with the briefly seen questionnaire, to find the next John Hinckley, Jr., not to create him with some conditioning treatment. After all, Warren Beatty takes the test in the film and he isn't turned into a sociopath. In fact, he spends the rest of the movie trying to prevent assassination attempts by The Parallax Corporation's recruits.

Given that businesses like Blackwater or G. Gordon Liddy & Associates exist or exited, the film isn't all that far-fetched.

At any rate, the film has a good title for the subject matter.

zeek said...

I just remembered Mel Gibson's Conspiracy Theory which, as I recall, was about torturing/conditioning/creating sociopathic murderers for assassination purposes. Had the material been in the hands of a less populist director (Richard Donner) and producer (Joel Silver) it might have been more interesting.

Original George said...

"I'm Maria. Would you like a flower?"

Mmmm...Frankenstein...still disturbing, I think. Great German expressionist-type sets and lighting. Holds up much better than Lugosi's 'Dracula.'

The Monster...so sad, pathetic. How Karloff uses his hands! All he wants is the Light.

(People react to him with such instant horror it makes you wonder if the movie isn't really about how people in the 1930s regarded the mentally ill and mentally handicapped, like Down's Syndrome children.)

About a man who tried to create life "in his own image without reckoning upon God," as the narrator says in the opening. Clearly, people took their religion more seriously in those days. In the sequel, director James Whale snuck in multiple indications that we're supposed to see the Monster as a Christ figure. The movie opens with Golgotha imagery of crosses on a hill. The blind hermit knows he has a soul. "I have prayed many times for God to send me a friend," he says. As the Monster eats, we see a crucifix on the wall behind him. Then he frightens and saves a shepherd. And gets crucified.

blake said...

Actually, OG, I should have said "scared" rather than just "react" because, yes, James Whale's Frankenstein is a moving story in many ways.

But reportedly people were quite frightened of it when it first came out. One man was said to have called the theater owner in the middle of the night, saying that since he couldn't sleep the theater owner shouldn't either.

Unlikely today.

dr kill said...

After the flick you can head over to Camp-Randall. There should be lots of good seats for the second half.

dr kill said...

Boom boom, out go the lights.

Paul Snively said...

zeek: I haven't seen The Parallax View in years but wasn't the point of that scene to identify already sociopathic individuals which the organization was recruiting for assassination purposes?

According to the narrative, yes. But if you follow the link provided by Althouse, you get a rather lengthy exegesis in which the audience is supposed to identify with Beatty's character and a lot of interpretation of the imagery and it's purported emotional impact. While the piece is well-written—in much the same way that I think the film is well-written and well-directed—I think it's a bit over the top in terms of how the scene actually affects me.

Which actually leads me to wonder: is the mechanism by which the test is supposed to identify sociopaths something that is more likely to strike those with a strong writing and/or visual arts temperament than, say, someone like me—a software engineer by trade and a computer scientist by education?

zeek: Given that businesses like Blackwater or G. Gordon Liddy & Associates exist or exited, the film isn't all that far-fetched.

Only if you assume that you have to be a sociopath to see value in what Blackwater or G. Gordon Liddy & Associates do, but that's the kind of analogy that I would expect from people who find either the scene from "The Parallax View" compelling or the existence of firms like these disturbing. More generally, whenever I read a phrase like "The Parallax film is frightening because we sense that in our violence-worshipping society, this audition film certainly could inspire killer - volunteers for a 'righteous' cause," I'm reading the writing of someone profoundly disconnected from the real world, in which people a bare maximum of one generation earlier fought and died, rightly, so that this person could think and write such things.

zeek: At any rate, the film has a good title for the subject matter.

Quite. When I studied holography as part of my physics education, holography's preservation of the parallax effect was, to me, the most striking thing about it, and a nice demonstration that the way holography works is literally (heh) by wavefront reconstruction.

dr kill said...

That's what I'm talking about. Worst home beat-down since 1989.

reader_iam said...

I think "Brazil" is the best dark perspective on government and society yet set to film.

Pretty much.