The Conversation - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Conversation Reviews

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August 20, 2017
No Double Negatives in this conversation.
August 16, 2017
Not at all what I thought it was gonna be, The Conversation is an excellent case study of a schizoid paranoiac named Harry Caul who is, ultimately, really a bad person. What comes off at first as someone who simply prefers his privacy (especially in light of what he knows about surveillance) turns into someone who is willing to brazenly destroy what few relationships he maintains just to keep them at two-arms length. There's a plot that I don't need to describe - as it should be witnessed on its own - but truly the focus is on how the damaged Harry *interprets* what's happening, rather than what actually is, because the audience get very little in the way of an omniscient perspective, rather, our understanding is filtered through the unreliable narrator and protagonist. Really one of the best films of the 70s, The Conversation will make you feel icky and a little morose, but is absolutely fascinating to watch.
August 1, 2017
Huge 70's film with a Gene Hackman in form and some marvelous directing. Harry Caul, a secretive surveillance expert, is spying on some people for someone. He listens to the tapes that he recorded and makes the fuzzy takes audible. This demands a great deal of work and when he has to deliver the tapes he is not sure if it's the right thing to do. He knows what's up and he's afraid that his work might end up killing the people he's been tracking. This gives hime some enemies, but his persona and mind is still his greatest enemy.

There are some mindpleasing scenes here, like the long party scene and the late scene in Harry's appartment. The conversation itself is repeated and as a viewer you know the words almost as good as our main guy. The acing is ace and this is a smart film with many layers. Obvious enemies, friends turning enemies, girls being girls making our man wonder about a whole lot of things. It's a horror film disguised in a crime mystery, rearly thrilling but with both frightening and intense scenes. The looser-look, with the stash, raincoat and sweaty shirts was supposedly hard for Gene to manage, but he nailed it. He claimed it's his favorite film he's done, the same is said about Coppola.

This is all about communication and handling things that are thrown at you. It's intelligent, but sadly it's not holding up as good today. Probably since the technology has came way further since then and the fact that this influational film has inspired many other films like it - still it has taken several key elemets from older films too. This takes the main theme very seriously, though. And nails it.

8 out of 10 Mother Mary figurines.
½ July 26, 2017
This surprised me by just how odd and engrossing Gene Hackman's character is. And the way the simple, but very effective mystery unfolds is masterly. Watching someone meticulous sound-edit shouldn't be this interesting,
July 16, 2017
Obsession and paranoia at its finest, but it is the twists and turns that elevate this movie to the grandeur it deserves and it slyly comments on what role technology has in our future, way ahead of its time.
½ July 2, 2017
Fantastic film! But way too deep and a bit outdated for my taste. The ending confused me. Who murdered the director and why? I thought the acting was fantastic and the direction was intriguing. I wish I knew the major themes of the movie, because I've read theories and they are brilliant. But, the movie sure was entertaining, even though it was paced very slow.
½ June 13, 2017
1974 U.S. thriller from the great cinematic direction of Francis Ford Coppola. The Conversation is a film about paranoia as I will reveal later.
It follows the work of a surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman). Caul works independently as a wiretapper for whoever pays him. Obviously his line of work is quite stressful and he has to overcome moral dilemmas along the way balancing them alongside his deeply religious beliefs.
The film builds up quite slowly, indeed for the first hour in reality. About half way through the film I did wonder what I was watching however I am glad I stayed with the film as in the second half the storyline is more gripping.
The film as with many of the genre is set in San Francisco and begins in the bustling location of Union Square as Caul hacks the conversation between a couple whilst huddled in the back of a van.
Why are the couple so interesting? It is that question which forms the backbone of the film.
Basically Caul has been hired to hack the couple's 'private' conversation by what appears to be a suspicious husband.
The husband in question is some high ranking Director and he uses his associate Martin Stett played by a pre Star Wars Harrison Ford. Ford looks young and menacing in the role. I saw his name low down in the title sequence credits and wondered when he was going to appear!
As the film progresses Caul becomes paranoid about what will happen to the couple after the contents of his surveillance tapes are heard.
Featuring some rather dated technology the performances of the actors (Hackman in particular) comes to the fore.
Will the couple face a murderous end?
Caul's suspicions grow, quite rightly.
Haunted by a case several years before in New York, Caul knows the possible nasty side of his work.
Coppola produced and directed some fantastic cinema in the 1970s and indeed this film is another one.
May 25, 2017
Excellent Francis Ford Coppola movie made at the height of Watergate and security breaches. Gene Hackman plays a bugging expert who is paid to tape a private conversation. Hackman and co-star John Cazale are both superb and the film weaves a grim and paranoid atmosphere. Watch also for Harrison Ford in a supporting role.
May 8, 2017
Of Francis Ford Coppola's four masterpieces (the other three being Apocalypse Now, and the first two Godfather films), The Conversation is the most subtle, eerie, and socially relevant. While the 70s birthed many conspiracy thrillers, this is one of the few that seems to have only grown in potency over time. It's paranoid musings on the surveillance age certainly haven't become any less unsettling, and Gene Hackman's conscious plagued character (perhaps the actor's very best performance) really speaks to future generations that lost their privacy. Excellent cinematography and sound too, as a picture like this obviously needs.
March 27, 2017
An excellent movie made at the height of Watergate and security breaches.
Gene Hackman plays a bugging expert who is paid to tape a private conversation.
It weaves a grim and paranoid atmosphere and Hackman is superb.
March 22, 2017
This magnificent movie came out right between two Godfather films and is a bright example of Coppola's talent and attention to detail. But what makes this film truly remarkable is its atmosphere, its mystery and suspense. It is just so magnificent.
½ February 8, 2017
While it's too monotone, that's about the only flaw in this shocking and multi layered masterpiece that redefines sound design
January 30, 2017
viewed on 3/8/04 (Tues)

Judging from the cover of the DVD, it seems like an espionage actioner but it has a very strange feel.

It is part mood piece, part Hitchcockian and even part horror movie. The jazzy soundtrack adds on to the confusion.

After much patience, the movie actually makes some sense eventually. As the title implies, the whole story revolves around a tapped conversation between a young couple who may or may not be possible murder victims of a corporation's director. The conversation is played over and over again throughout the movie but it is integral in building up the meditative mystery.

The motive of the murder is never revealed. There is even a twist in the end which is unresolved. Still, somehow the film reaches a satisfactory ending.

The intrigue of the suspense. The twists in the end. The irony of it all, as what the closing scene suggests.

I just wonder why a small arty movie with mixed genres like this got nominated for Best Picture.

Rating: B
½ November 27, 2016

The great story and moments are streched out too often by the exploration on technology and the characters that while insightful, makes the whole experience much less gratifying than it should be even for a slow burner.
Super Reviewer
½ November 24, 2016
A sophisticated and taut narrative in which Coppola does with sound what Antonioni had done with image in his Blow-up, following a paranoid man unable to open up to anybody and trying desperately to put the pieces together of something that he cannot understand.
½ November 21, 2016
Basically a different version of Rear Window, Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation stars Gene Hackman as a sound expert who is hired to listen to and piece together a young couple's conversation and realizes that it is a plot for murder. Gene Hackman delivers an effective low-key performance as the sound expert and The Conversation does explore the consequences as well as the loneliness of people whose sole occupation is peeking into other people's lives. However, it is also a bit too challenging to understand and too slow in pace that it becomes difficult to keep us compelled.
October 17, 2016
Interesting to a degree, but tedious.
½ September 19, 2016
Gene Hackman turns in what might be the best performance of his career in The Conversation, which is hard for me to say since I adore Hoosiers with all my heart. This film is pure genius and he is a big reason why. In the movie he portrays a private detective named Harry Caul who specializes in audio surveillance techniques. The plot opens with him, along with his team, doing what he does best. However, the plot thickens when he realizes something bad might happen if he completes the job and turns over the tapes. The film is quiet, but that brilliantly builds tension and makes every sound stand out even more. It wasn't long before I felt like I was living in Harry's world, and I understood his paranoia. Any time he would open up and talk, I felt uneasy just like him. Hackman really taps into this character's neurosis and makes him standoffish but also sympathetic. While other people in his life see him as rather insensitive or unfeeling, we are given the benefit of learning what has made him this way. The plot has a few twists in it that I thought worked brilliantly, and it made me want to go back and watch the movie again almost immediately. I have a feeling to a modern audience the slow pace of The Conversation might be a turn-off, but I felt so much tension and paranoia throughout that I thought it worked perfectly. If you have not watched this film, I think it is definitely worth trying, because it is a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece.
August 27, 2016
A masterpiece in every way, Hackman and Coppola give us a thoughtful, haunting and challenging film that leaves an indelible impression.
½ August 7, 2016
Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a surveillance expert who runs his own company in San Francisco. He is highly respected by others in the profession. Caul is obsessed with his own privacy; his apartment is almost bare behind its triple-locked door and burglar alarm, he uses pay phones to make calls, claims to have no home telephone and his office is enclosed in wire mesh in a corner of a much larger warehouse. Caul is utterly professional at work but finds personal contact extremely difficult because he is intensely secretive about even the most trivial aspects of his life. Dense crowds make him feel uncomfortable and he is withdrawn and taciturn in more intimate social situations. He is also reticent and obsessively secretive with colleagues. His appearance is nondescript, except for his habit of wearing a translucent grey plastic raincoat almost everywhere he goes, even when it is not raining. Despite Caul's insistence that his professional code means that he is not responsible for the actual content of the conversations he records or the use to which his clients put his surveillance activities, he is wracked by guilt over a past wiretap job which resulted in the murder of three people. This sense of guilt is amplified by his devout Catholicism. His one hobby is playing along to jazz records on a tenor saxophone in the privacy of his apartment. Caul, his colleague Stan (John Cazale) and some freelance associates have taken on the task of bugging the conversation of a couple (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest) as they walk through crowded Union Square in San Francisco, surrounded by a cacophany of background noise. Amid the small-talk, the couple discuss fears that they are being watched, and mention a discreet meeting at a hotel room in a few days. The challenging task of recording this conversation is accomplished by multiple surveillance operatives located in different positions around the square. After Caul has worked his magic on merging and filtering different tapes, the final result is a sound recording in which the words themselves become crystal clear, but their actual meaning remains ambiguous. Although Caul cannot understand the true meaning of the conversation, he finds the cryptic nuances and emotional undercurrents contained within it deeply troubling. Sensing danger, Caul feels increasingly uneasy about what may happen to the couple once the client hears the tape. He plays the tape again and again, gradually refining its accuracy. He concentrates on one key phrase hidden under the sound of a street musician: "He'd kill us if he got the chance". Caul constantly reinterprets the speakers' subtle emphasis on particular words in this phrase, trying to figure out their meaning in the light of what he suspects and subsequently discovers...

Francis Ford Coppolaīs "The Conversation" is yet another movie that has been on my to see list for a long time. Michelangelo Antonioni "Blow-Up" (1966) was a key influence on Coppolaīs conceptualization of the film's themes, such as surveillance versus participation, and perception versus reality. In this case itīs not what the eye sees, itīs what the ear hears and what sort of interpretation you get from the manipulation of sound to make out a sentence that lies just underneath other sounds and what the consequences might be from that. Caul is a victim of his own profession and with his increasing paranoia he's now made himself the target of surveillance by the same agency who employed him. The film is slow paced and Coppola forces you to pay attention to all the details. Gene Hackman is as always at his best and his portrayal of Harry Caul is of high standard. Rotten Tomatoes consensus for the film is: "This tense, paranoid thriller presents Francis Ford Coppola at his finest-and makes some remarkably advanced arguments about technology's role in society that still resonate today." And this is as valid today as it was back in 1974. Even more so due to the development of modern technology, internet and the world of computers. Roger Ebert's contemporary review gave The Conversation four out of four stars, and described Hackman's portrayal of Caul as "one of the most affecting and tragic characters in the movies." In 2001, Ebert added The Conversation to his "Great Movies" list, describing Hackman's performance as a "career peak" and writing that the film "comes from another time and place than today's thrillers, which are so often simple-minded." Conspiracy thrillers such as "The Parallax View" and "Three Days of the Condor" came out in the mid 70s as well adding to the genre and "The Conversation" fits in there. Thereīs suspense, an intriguing ambigious plot and ending, great acting and interesting ways of telling the story camera wise and visually. But, I canīt say I was blown away by the film. Itīs a solid piece of film, but not as good as I was expecting it to be. Trivia: "The Conversation" won the Palme d'Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. It was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1974 and lost Best Picture to The Godfather Part II, another Francis Ford Coppola film. In 1995, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
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