26
Oct 04

The lifespan of originality as a laudable quality is perilously short.

Do You SeePost a comment • 224 views

The lifespan of originality as a laudable quality is perilously short. We try to hold up firsts as being somehow significant, but beyond their actual place in linear history they rarely stand out. Maybe Hillary and Norgay were the first to climb Everest, but most of their successors have climbed it in a better way, with advice gleaned from this initial success. First rarely equals best.

I happened to catch a rep screening of The Parallax View at the weekend. I had never seen it and was just aware of its place in the history of conspiracy thrillers. Post Manchurian Candidate (with which it borrows an awful lot of its narrative thrust and set pieces) it is possibly one of the first films to find suggest an enemy within the USA, and moreover it being corporate America. It is unclear however what the Parallax Corporation’s agenda is, and by the time Warren Beatty’s character has gone deep undercover the twist will be clear to anyone who has seen any subsequent conspiracy thriller. Not fair on Pakula’s film? Perhaps, but in my head it is derivative of even a hokey potboiler like Arlington Road (a film I have a soft spot for merely because it may be the only time I have seen a film named after a place, near that place – Arlington Road in Camden).

If we judge The Parallax View on other terms, it is a poorly connected thriller whose plot twists do not naturally develop from the storyline. It does however have one of the best modern day bar room brawls in it, and in that lies the suggestion that the film does not really know what it wants to be. Golden boy Beatty is very smooth, a journalistic cowboy (a pretty unconvincing blend). The only real standout piece is the brainwashing montage, which may well have bred a whole generation of critics who believe film can rule someone’s personality. Suddenly all the insults against MTV makes sense, except MTV editing is much more sophisticated that Pakula’s toytown subliminals.

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