“I’m sure you’ll find this amusing, but I’m afraid of the dark.”
Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda) in Klute, 1971, dir. Alan J. Pakula
Anyone working in movies has influences. I certainly have quite a few. Spielberg and DePalma, for instance, both had an enormous effect on me when I was younger. While I’d loved movies all my life, it was after seeing Jaws, Close Encounters and, particularly, Dressed to Kill that I started to become aware of the camera, of film grammar (English was already my favorite subject so this was not a huge leap) and the other ways these storytellers went about their craft. Spielberg continues to be an influence, of course, the guy continually blows my mind. And there are many other directors who have had an effect, from Hitchcock to Nolan, Wyler to Nichols, Hawkes to Polanski, David Lean. My biggest influence, though, is Alan J. Pakula.
One of the most vivid movie memories I have is going to see Pakula’s adaptation of All The President’s Men with my mom one evening at the Park Plaza Twin Cinema, about which you’ve heard before. I wasn’t old enough to care about Watergate when it was actually occurring, so when I saw the movie a couple of years later, most of what I saw was new to me. The depiction of the Washington Post newsroom is legendary; the movie apparently caused a huge upswing in applications to journalism school. But more than anything, I was transfixed by the style of the movie and how the filmmaker was able to take something that should have been pretty boring and not only rivet me, but at times really scare me. It was my first experience with Pakula.
All The President’s Men (1976) is the third in Pakula’s “70’s paranoia trilogy”, the others being Klute (1971) and The Parallax View (1974). I saw these in reverse: President’s Men in the theatre, Parallax a couple of years later on TV and Klute many years later in film school. President’s Men, among many other great achievements, has one of the best screenplays ever written. William Goldman deservedly won an Oscar for the film and I am continually amazed, each time I watch the movie, by both the film and the screenplay. Parallax is a weird, creepy, unsettling film starring Warren Beatty, essentially Pakula’s riff on the Kennedy assassination. It’s terrific. And then there is Klute, one of the best films of all time.
Click here to dive into ‘Klute’!