Parallax is defined as the illusion that a given object in the distance appears to change position viewed from a different position. You can demonstrate this effect by focusing on an object off the distance as you are reading this and looking at it with first one eyes open and one eye closed and then looking at it again with the opposite eyes opened and closed. Without having your moved your head at all, the object will seem to have shifted position ever so slightly.
The Parallax View is one of those films that mark the American cinema of the early to mid-1970s as the era of paranoid conspiracy thrillers. Among the other films belong to this semi-genre range from Francis Coppola’s The Conversation to Brian DePalma’s Blow-Out. Both of those films, by the way focus on what a parallax that is heard rather one that is seen, by the way.
The master of the 1970s paranoid conspiracy thriller about how the being in right position can determine whether you are being paranoid or whether what you are seeing is an actual conspiracy is director Alan J. Pakula. His name may not be as familiar as other directors who enjoyed a hot streak in the 1970s as Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg, but his “paranoid trilogy” is highly regarded as one of the most impressive thematic film trilogies of all time.
The Parallax View is not nearly as well-known as the two movies that precede and follow it in the trilogy: Klute and All the President’s Men. Perhaps because the paranoid and conspiracy theorizing gets ramped up to an almost feverish pitch in this movie that likely would never have existed had the outlandishness of the JFK assassination conspiracy theory not somehow been able to take off and create a life of its own despite an astounding lack of evidence, gaping holes in logic and more misinformation than one might think possible.
Indeed, The Parallax View is directly informed by both Kennedy assassinations almost as much as All the President’s Men is informed by Watergate. The big difference between the two is that the journalist in The Parallax View goes it alone rather than sticking together as a team. A choice that proves to have a significant effect on determining where the object of his paranoia is actually located.