The Conversation Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".