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The Perpendicular View

I watched The Parallax View again over the weekend. Movies from the early 70s constitute for me the greatest age of American Filmmaking, and this film falls squarely in that pantheon. In terms of political sophistication it's up there with The Manchurian Candidate, though Parallax is deliberately colder and offputting and cerebral in its filmmaking, employing touches of modernist technique to keep us off our guard. It also challenges the viewer to keep critically engaged if s/he's to make any sense of the subtle plot mechanics. Imagine, a Hollywood movie for adults that challenges one to think, while carrying a deeply subversive message, while repudiating the film-by-committee connect-the-dots emotional manipulation of escapist fare!

In fact, these two films could be historico-cultural bookends delimiting the 60s. The Manchurian Candidate was released a year before JFK's assassination, and The Parallax View was released a year after Watergate.

The plot of The Parallax View, simply put: a reporter comes to the realization that a corporation specializing in political assassinations is behind a string of them. One of their operating techniques is to create plausible denial by setting up patsies to take the fall.

The film suggests, in its coldly subversive way, that the string of assassinations in 1960s America of its most socially relevant heroes were not done by lone gunmen, but were rather carried out in a systematic manner by secret organizations.

If it were made now the assassin would be caught on video claiming "I didn't do it!" while smoke still roils from his gun barrel. He'd accuse the left-wing media of slander and treason, and be hailed as a hero by right-wing attack dogs. Any government inquiry would be railroaded by partisan hacks and promptly forgotten and ignored. Same for the next time he does it, and the next, and the next...