The joke might have come out of Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, “how do you spell Tuscarora?” The town mouse turns tricks who in their working hours pass her by for ad jobs and off-off-Broadway.
The great invention is Klute himself, the cop from Cabbageville unbluffed and undismayed by slickers of undeniable fascination or arrant squalor.
The true gloss is Ken Russell’s Crimes of Passion with its pendant Whore, necessary above all as a corrective lens for the purblindness of critics who found the pornocracy represented so well, all else seemed dross.
The viaticum is by way of Dr. Strangelove’s Gen. Jack D. Ripper on “man’s weakness”.
The Parallax View
The tours de force of the “indoctrination film” and the final assassination show a command of basic resources and a finished grasp of modern painters (Kline, Johns, Rauschenberg, Diebenkorn), which is associated with Get Carter and The Conversation. Generally, as a matter of technique, the style is akin to The Terminal Man, with a structure founded in Fritz Lang’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
There is a brilliant piece of photography among the tiers and escalators which is remarkable. As a point of interest, the building used to represent the Parallax corporate headquarters has been converted into a courthouse, like the Texas School Book Depository.
All the President’s Men
How two bottom-rung reporters at the Washington Post stumbled on the Republican Party’s successful management of the 1972 Democratic campaign under President Nixon’s personal supervision, financed by campaign donations, many of them laundered overseas, executed by CIA operatives and covered up by “the entire intelligence community”.
The beautiful exacerbation of technique is provoked by analysis or inspiration in a monumentally slow dolly-in from Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai as Woodward calls Dahlberg about the check in his name found on one of the Watergate burglars, and the Midwest Finance Chairman of the Committee to Re-elect the President replies, “my neighbor’s wife has just been kidnapped!”
The correct relationship of the parties is perhaps signified in the give-and-take of Woodward and Bernstein, who together, as someone has pointed out, make one great reporter.
The editorial staff observe the election as spectators unaware the game is rigged, or unconcerned. There is a curious evocation of 2001: A Space Odyssey in certain shots, exterior views of Unit 2 in the Watergate Office Building and Unit 1 across the street, the Post newsroom (which occasionally has a fast tracking shot between Hawks’ His Girl Friday and Schlesinger’s Eye for an Eye) in the shot already mentioned, in the faceless telephone voices and the impending mystery with its attendant cover-up.
There is ample groundwork (in Capra, for example) that can be utilized for an understanding of political corruption, as it is here, but again the curious fact is how much weight is gradually seen to rest on schoolboy pranks like “the Muskie Canuck letter” and the bugging of Democratic national headquarters, always seen from the vantage point of a low-level investigation by a couple of fairly unversed reporters. The naïveté of politicians, the press and the public is thoroughly exposed, and an abstract imposition adduced by simple preponderance of evidence.
The taciturnity and allusiveness are a Redford hallmark, verisimilitude is the key of his co-productions. Many inferences can be drawn, not all of them useful, because there is no political analysis at all, only the historical account. The foreign editor doubts the story, seeing no motivation, Ben Bradlee is loath to report that “the Attorney General is a crook”, other editors protest “we don’t want to bring this country down.”
Bernstein is somewhat forward in his reporting, he has to go back and polish it, Woodward a little backward, he doesn’t know who Charles Colson is.
We all know who Deep Throat was, now, the man whom Colson (after his prison conversion and ministry) called “a traitor”, the acting associate director of the FBI, reduced in 1972 to granting secret rendezvous in parking garages so the story wouldn’t go entirely untold.
The inferences are, for the great student of Lang that Pakula is, on the order of red herrings straight from The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse.
Comes a Horseman
ingredients of the classic Western in a new mise en scène that includes the modern derivations and enhancements.
Thus the large landscapes and easy tempo with the unexpected, gradually revealing a land grabber and a girl with a ranch on her own and a cowpoke caught up in it, etc.
Mann, Stevens, Wyler et al., the Western of the Thirties now situated where it always was (William S. Hart), in the vast solitudes.
1945, Russians heading for Berlin is the news.
A cattle drive, imperative of the big spread, imperative of oil.
There’s a old hand a-he’pin’ of the lady, and if you don’t know about such things, the world is too much with us.
The surprising element is Polanski’s Chinatown, a tale of the West. This too is a thematic analysis or exacerbation of the theme (the slant drilling is in Nicholson’s The Two Jakes, from Rosi’s Il caso Mattei).
Variety as much as said Pakula was screwing like a Chinaman (“you come now, we look at moon!”), didn’t like Robards’ “black hat” role, loved Farnsworth (“altogether sympathetic”).
The Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “somber, slow-moving”.
Time Out manages to miss the point like the side of a barn, “a doomed attempt”.
TV Guide, “offbeat film noir western”.
Film4, “flies against everything the genre stood for.”
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “portentous and wholly unexciting”, citing Pauline Kael in The New Yorker, “how can you get involved in the conflict between the good guys and the bad guys if you can’t even see them?”
Oil companies jack up prices, rake in capital, and drain it from the world of infidels by secretly buying gold, causing a global financial collapse.
“We are the Arabs,” says the American petroleum executive in Avildsen’s The Formula.
The film was negatively reviewed, having no real interest in the shadows it presents beyond their impermanence and touching reliance on wheeler-dealers who consider them anathema.
See You in the Morning
The director with the finest sense of place, by which is meant his peerless interiors, would be the one who pitches very correctly his film with reference to Scenes from a Marriage and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, because each in its own way is ultimately comical.
Call it a sketch for Pakula’s own information, if not a Haydnesque relaxation. His script comprehensively addresses a number of irrational qualities (his leading character is a psychiatrist), and primarily serves him as a vehicle for the manifestation of those interiors (here verging on the somewhat fanciful, in keeping with the unfinished state of the film), and, for instance, a superb long dolly shot on Larry and Beth trundling a luggage cart at the airport, with dialogue.
As a result, the film is aimed at a certain rather dull audience, but has plenty of laughs and pleasures for connoisseurs of Norman Jewison’s Best Friends as well. And those interiors, which seem so offhand (or composed to look that way), have the deepest color harmonies...
This is so much like Fritz Lang’s work in the ‘40s that it obviously is the fruit of long study. The style depends on plausible realism, and Pakula’s interiors are so good that his few exteriors are a comfortable fit. What you want is the mental play Lang pioneered, and Pakula anchors his scenes perfectly to achieve it.
The Pelican Brief
Sidney J. Furie gives the best analysis of this film in The Circle (The Fraternity), Pakula having been obliged to rethink All the President’s Men in the light of subsequent events.
The Pelican Brief opens with shots of the Louisiana swamps behind the credits, and lest you think this has anything to do with Nicholas Ray’s Wind Across the Everglades, these shots are ruddy-tinted both here and when they recur in the recitation of the brief (Anthony Mann’s Thunder Bay is perhaps more thoroughly invoked).
The Supreme Court justices are murdered in a strong suggestion of Mackenzie’s The Fourth Protocol, by an Arab assassin hired by an oil man named Matisse (the Washington Herald reporter has a little trouble spelling this name, so as not to give away the game).
Pakula’s ultimate image is of the squeamishness felt by a Tulane law student faced with Cocteau’s guardian angel (Blood of a Poet has this symbol, here suggesting Walter Burns’ “the power of the press”, a slowly flapping eagle).
This is all very abstruse and abstract, the way Hitchcock is, and forms the basis of a Hitchcockian film that audiences flocked to and critics found entirely unworthy of comment.
There is a fine strain of Preminger’s Advise and Consent brought to the fore in the scene with the informant’s widow. Lumet’s Power is the gag setup here, and it seems evident that Pakula has depicted a quandary, above all.
The Devil’s Own
The title is a very pointed reference to Michael Anderson’s Shake Hands with the Devil. Pakula has found himself in a dilemma also faced by Pollack in Random Hearts, critics were unable to follow the construction of his film.
An IRA gunman is shown to have lost his father to assassination at a very young age. The boy, now grown up, escapes from a gunfight in Belfast to secure weapons in America. A judge there finds him lodgings under an alias with a New York City police sergeant and his family.
The key points of the drama are presented anecdotally. A rookie patrolman leads a tiring pursuit of a kid who has stolen a packet of Trojans because he’s too embarrassed to buy them.
The sergeant and his partner answer a call, a small child opens the door, they are menaced by and subdue an angry husband with a pistol.
They stop a man on the street who is likewise armed, he fires at the sergeant’s partner and runs down the sidewalk, a long New York block. The sergeant runs after him, threatening to shoot, the man tosses the pistol down a flight of basement steps and runs on. The sergeant stops to pick up the pistol, hears his partner running by and then three shots. The man is dead, the partner drops the pistol beside the body.
The psychology of the gunman is at issue, his father’s involvement is not explained, the series of events is a concatenation of violence that never, to the critics’ chagrin, really discusses the Irish conflict, rather you have, for example, the intransigence of an arms dealer who must be paid, no second thoughts are permitted once a deal has been undertaken.