Robert Parrish’s “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun”

Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (Robert Parrish, 1969)[15-24-36].PNG

Robert Parrish started his career editing the films of John Ford, and being forced to study attentively the master’s material must have made quite an impact on the way he would shape his own, because not only he learned the importance of Ford’s focus on conceptual and emotional undercurrents which both substantiated and could counterpoint the “big theme”, he abolished the requisite for anything big on the B-grade genre films he was assigned to make. In the last three days I watched a noir (Cry Danger), a western (The Wonderful Country) and this sci-fi, my first contact with Parrish’s cinema, and all three are beyond striking and necessary entries in their respective genres. Not once did I feel the director running away from the specificity of their narrative principles, scenic clichés, character types and recurring themes that outline their kind of pictures. Not seeking subversion by any means, what makes them extraordinary is the straight look at the small issues, on what is at hand, the most obvious elements which often get ignored because otherwise they are given, not explored and left behind to keep grasp on sharp storytelling, our eyes are directed to fundamentals and their own signification, tensions and ironies instead of signifiers of the journey the characters partake to a greater understanding of their wondrous and seemingly immense surroundings, that after increased experience, leave them almost without room for action. That is Parrish’s peculiar voice, even more extreme in the case of Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, coming out a year after 2001 – A Space Odyssey, confronting Stanley Kubrick’s approach as if it was a denial of all the implications of its odyssey from dawn to rebirth of man. Here is an abyss, endless reflections, a journey condemned to eternally defy itself. Its plot is perfect Twilight Zone material, its production is another example of high concept sci-fi indulging in spectacular visual effects, but fortunately, even sharing an obsession with procedural detail (whole political bodies can be understood, or rather felt, without a hint of the big picture), Parrish is the anti-Kubrick, with interests far away from a philosophical treatise or anything important, much closer to a minimalistic riff on John Frankenheimer’s Seconds, using its fantastical setting to clear our sight to the most basic things, it is the work of a closet sentimentalist fascinated with the dramatic potencies of anything put in front of the camera, already one of the great discoveries of 2016.

Christofer Pallú