The Parallax View (1974)

theparallaxview

Jules: If politics is theatre, and the public are the audience, and the affairs of the day are the script, who are the writers, and where do the actors come from? Can the actors perceive the truth they are playing a role in a work they have mistaken to be their own lives? What if they should?

David: Considered part of Alan J. Pakula’s “paranoia trilogy”, along with Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976), The Parallax View is a reporter cum detective story surveying the creation of homegrown chaos agents and fall guys of obscure origin, or what we refer to today as terrorists. This birthplace seems to be a rabbit hole so deep and tortuous that exploring it, you might find yourself turning into the perp without even realising. Can the great conspiratocracy  recruit even its enemies? Are we all in some way doomed to be recruited by a machine that no one is even driving?

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Performance (1970)

performance

David: An art movie, a drug movie, Nicolas Roeg’s directing debut, a Mick Jagger acting debut,  a late, post-swinging 60′s bohemian manifesto, but underpinning all that one of the best British gangster flicks around. It features a foulmouthed, thuggish, head kicking turn by the erstwhile toffee nosed James Fox as bovver-boy Chas. Finding himself on the run, Chas comes in for some heavy deconstruction when he chooses the dark cave of a retired rock-star recluse to lay low in. Not an atom of machismo survives. Add mushrooms and flip genre. Tasty.

Jules: The reality-distortion of fame, and its possible relation to the shamanic undercurrents of consensus reality, seem to intersect in this glimpse inside British counterculture. Cammell and Roeg expertly oversee the somehow-mythic triumvirate of Fox, Jagger, and Pallenberg in this postmodern Greek tragedy where normalised sociopathy substitutes for humanistic virtue.

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Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) (1958)

ascenseur

Jules: Louis Malle pre-empts Jean-Luc Godard’s advice about girls, guns, and movies, but also adds a stuck elevator, a forgotten grapnel, a shopgirl, a streetpunk, and a gull-wing Mercedes-Benz to the mix. We join Jeanne Moreau on her existential walk of shame as she waits for news from her special forces lover and his perfect plan to murder her wealthy husband. The ready-to-hand surroundings of late-Fifties Paris intersect in a kind of metaphysical perfection with the desolation of Miles Davis’ score (which, judging by the album liner photos, was recorded in one session, with Moreau in attendance). In eighty eight perfect minutes, Malle essays desire, ennui, jealousy, and dread, before a final disintegration of all emotion.

David: Once again the plan for a perfect crime falls into the hands of very imperfect criminals, in the form of not one but two pairs of star-crossed lovers. Though tightly plotted, Malle’s jazz-toned noir closely preceded  and presaged films like Breathless, The 400 Blows and other first works by seminal French new wave auteurs.

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Le Mans (1971)

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David: Steve McQueen departs the sixties at high speed, driving for team Porsche. The Le Mans car race pushes the limits of endurance over a non-stop 24 hours as McQueen pushes the envelope of stone-face cool, shifting his schtick into the autistic spectrum uttering barely a word of dialogue for the first half hour and not much thereafter either. A racing manifesto and vérité documentary infused with the barest hint of plot somehow feels curiously innovative. Death hovers over the proceedings and the film deals creatively with the edge where speed flips into sudden violence.

Jules: In retrospect, it sometimes seems like race car drivers could have accrued the occupational reputation of, say, naval divers, or firemen, or test pilots. But, for whatever reason, we shower the fastest drivers in the world with money, fame, and fandom. Why are we attracted to the words and actions of these particular technical experts, rather than others? This film calmly and methodically lays out some of the (artistically embellished) facts for our consideration. If Freud’s ‘death drive’ is true, perhaps it intersects the world of motor-sport, industry, and media, and provides something by way of explanation.

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