The periodic “Seattle On Film” column offers short reviews of films shot in and around Seattle, with special attention to the portrayal of the city itself.
“Every time you turned around, some nut was knocking off one of the best men in the country.”
JFK. Martin Luther King. Robert Kennedy. All iconic figures. All killed by deranged loners – or so the story goes. When yet another assassination claims the life of fictional senator Charles Carroll, the commission charged with investigating his death also finds “no evidence of any wider conspiracy.” But when witnesses to the crime keep turning up dead, journalist Joseph Frady (Warren Beatty) starts questioning the official explanation.
J. William Fulbright described 1960s America as a “sick society,” and The Parallax View captures the paranoia of a generation reeling from a decade of civil and political turmoil. Cynicism towards institutions pervades the film, which reflects the legacy of Vietnam and Watergate while depicting a nascent subordination of national interest to the interests of multinational conglomerates. Its conception of corporate power as potentially more insidious than government power anticipated post-Cold War American cinema, in which corporations supplanted Communists as the primary antagonists of justice and freedom.
Ultimately, however, its artistic merit does not equal its cultural significance. Despite a startling conclusion, The Parallax View never fully realizes the potential of its premise. It does sustain a sinister atmosphere with a mournful, martial score suggestive of a subdued – or subverted – patriotism. It also commands attention with its opening scenes at the Space Needle, which provide a rare glimpse of downtown Seattle in the early 1970s.