The Conversation Reviews
You have to watch this at least a few times..
Harry Caul (Hackman) is a surveillance specialist who works for privatized companies. Using his equipment to spy on people's conversations, Caul is hired by a mysterious client (Ford) who has him tail a young couple. While going through the recorded material, Caul hears the subjects discussing that they may be in danger. Fearing he may have just participated in something terrible, Caul struggles within.
In most of his films, Gene Hackman is pretty energized. In this film, Hackman gives a shockingly reserved and subdued performance. It was an incredibly different performance compared to his other films. His character is really secretive, and doesn't enjoy talking about himself. Unfortunately, you don't really get to know the character, which makes it difficult to actually like him. However, you can tell he is struggling within, wrestling with the moral implications of helping his client. If not for Hackman's great performance, the central character would have fallen flat.
As a film, The Conversation is a tightly wound thriller that succeeds because of its tension. This film has to be digested. It's quite a slow burn to say the least. What makes it work is the writing and direction. The film's script is very well written. Francis Ford Coppola is a masterful writer and director. This film is very tense, and Coppola builds this tension throughout the film. As each minute passes, the tension rises. The climax of the film is incredible, and jaw dropping.
Unfortunately, I failed to enjoy the film as much as it seemed others did. The central character, while brilliantly played by Hackman, is largely uninteresting. He just isn't well written, and its hard to actually like him as a character when you know nothing about him. You are, like the other characters in the film, in the dark about who Caul is. Maybe this is what Coppola was going for. Finally, large portions of the film were noticeably slow for me. I feel this is a film I need to watch again to formulate my final thoughts.
"The Conversation" is in many ways an impressive picture. The writing, direction, and performances are top notch. The film is very well shot by cinematographer, Bill Butler. While the film is tense and thrilling, it is noticeably a slow burn. The central character-while brilliantly acted-is largely uninteresting. However, this is an impressive film in regards to its immense tension and shocking ending.
The Conversation is about surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), who is a legend in his field, but has skeletons in his closet. Supported by his assistant Stan (the always great John Cazale) Harry has been hired to record and report on a couple (Cindy Williams and Fredrick Forrest) by a man only known as The Director (Robert Duvall). As the job progresses Harry begins to worry about what the consequences of the information he's about to deliver will have on the parties lives based on an incident from his past that still haunts him.
Hackman plays Caul as a very low key individual that doesn't want any attention, yet is the center of attention in his little world of watching and listening. He's an anxious little man that knows his business and understands who to operate his personal life to keep it out of his work life. Hackman had hit it big by this point and The Conversation really is a change of pace compared to some of hos other work, mainly looking at The French Connection.
The other surprising standout in the film is Harrison Ford as Martin Stett, the threatening thug like individual that is the barrier between the world and The Director. Ford's performance is very confrontational, but he doesn't really do anything to give you a reason to fear him. It's all in your head.
The main theme of The Conversation is paranoia. The thing is that the paranoia belongs to Harry Caul. He's the one that's watching people, but he's the most fearful in the film. From the early moments of the movie you see how Harry dictates his entire life to maintain his privacy and you get to the point that you wonder if maybe some of this fear is in his head, held up by Harry having some delusions leading him to fear that history was going to repeat itself.
Where the two Godfather films were expansive films traveling over thousands of miles and involving decades. they're open and airy and give you plenty of room to breathe. The Conversation is the opposite. It's a claustrophobic film that has you breathing heavy from the fear of what's closing in on us. The stinger on all of this is that even though there is no one nearby, you are being held close with the technology that lets you see and hear from elsewhere, which ironically has become even more prevalent forty years later with our advances in tech. The film itself serves as another Coppola classic from his prime era in the 1970's It's a great film that kind of gets pushed away due to the Godfather films. 70's grit at its finest, almost symbolizing the greatness of the cinema of the era.
Watched this on 23/9/15
Before there were The Lives of Others(2006), there was The Conversation. A brilliant and suspenseful film which is the most underrated and overlooked film of director Francis Ford Coppola. Conversation is tense, paranoid, full of terrific background score and effective voice editing. Gene Hackman also provides a terrific performance. Coppola has directed this film extremely well and I believe that it is his best direction thus far in his career.