The Conversation Reviews
Hackman isn't the only great performance; Harrison Ford is excellent as Assistant to "The Director", slick and menacing. Cindy Williams (yes, THAT Cindy Williams) is also excellent as one of Harry's surveillance subjects.
The 70s were an amazing decade for cinema, throwing off the shackles of the Hayes Code and giving unprecedented fertile ground for innovative directors. The Conversation stands as one of the best examples of what a sharp young director could do.
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.
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.
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.