The Conversation

( 8 )

Overview

Made between The Godfather 1972 and The Godfather Part II 1974, and in part an homage to Michelangelo Antonioni's art-movie classic Blow-Up 1966, The Conversation was a return to small-scale art films for Francis Ford Coppola. Sound surveillance expert Harry Caul Gene Hackman is hired to track a young couple Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest, taping their conversation as they walk through San Francisco's crowded Union Square. Knowing full well how technology can invade privacy, Harry obsessively keeps to ...
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Overview

Made between The Godfather 1972 and The Godfather Part II 1974, and in part an homage to Michelangelo Antonioni's art-movie classic Blow-Up 1966, The Conversation was a return to small-scale art films for Francis Ford Coppola. Sound surveillance expert Harry Caul Gene Hackman is hired to track a young couple Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest, taping their conversation as they walk through San Francisco's crowded Union Square. Knowing full well how technology can invade privacy, Harry obsessively keeps to himself, separating business from his personal life, even refusing to discuss what he does or where he lives with his girlfriend, Amy Teri Garr. Harry's work starts to trouble him, however, as he comes to believe that the conversation he pieced together reveals a plot by the mysterious corporate "Director" who hired him to murder the couple. After he allows himself to be seduced by a call girl, who then steals the tapes, Harry is all the more convinced that a killing will occur, and he can no longer separate his job from his conscience. Coppola, cinematographer Bill Butler, and Oscar-nominated sound editor Walter Murch convey the narrative through Harry's aural and visual experience, beginning with the slow opening zoom of Union Square accompanied by the alternately muddled and clear sound of the couple's conversation caught by Harry's microphones. The Godfather Part II and The Conversation earned Coppola a rare pair of Oscar nominations for Best Picture, as well as two nominations for Best Screenplay The Godfather Part II won both. Praised by critics, The Conversation was not a popular hit, but it has since come to be seen as one of the artistic high points of the decade, as well as of Coppola's career. Its atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion, combined with its obsessive loner antihero, made it prototypical of the darker "American art movies" of the early '70s, as its audiotape storyline also made it seem eerily appropriate for the era of the Watergate scandal.
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Special Features

Commentary by Francis Ford Coppola; Commentary by Film Editor Walter Murch; ; "Close-Up On The Conversation" Featurette; ; Theatrical Trailer
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Though it was commercially lost in the shuffle between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, The Conversation ranks among the finest films of Francis Ford Coppola's career. Drawn on a more intimate canvas than the Godfather epics or Apocalypse Now, it's a compelling and expertly constructed chamber piece about the nature of privacy and the troubling gray area between facts and truth; it was also remarkably prescient, coming out just as the Watergate scandal was making surveillance a major issue in the American consciousness. Gene Hackman delivers a typically expert performance as Harry Caul, who makes his living finding out what others are doing. As a consequence, Caul has become an obsessively private man haunted by guilt and incapable of trusting anyone, and Hackman and Coppola mold him into an indelible character whose moral and professional sides are at constant war. Coppola also used his soundtrack with uncommon intelligence; in a decade in which the attention paid to film sound would increase by leaps and bounds, The Conversation was a breakthrough in using its soundtrack not just to convey dialogue and music but to deepen the story, as well as providing the ultimate screen example of the adage, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it." The Conversation is a subtle film that best reveals its details through repeat viewings, though even on a first viewing it's a brilliant cautionary tale whose message has become all the more potent with the passage of time and the further rise of technology.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/17/2010
  • UPC: 031398125020
  • Original Release: 1974
  • Rating:

  • Source: Lions Gate
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Wide Screen
  • Sound: Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:53:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 19,603

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Gene Hackman Harry Caul
John Cazale Stanley
Allen Garfield William P. "Bernie" Moran
Frederic Forrest Mark
Cindy Williams Ann
Teri Garr Amy
Harrison Ford Martin Stett
Phoebe Alexander Lurleen
Timothy Carey
Robert Duvall The Director
Michael Higgins Paul
Elizabeth MacRae Meredith
Robert Shields The Mime
Mark Wheeler Receptionist
Technical Credits
Francis Ford Coppola Director, Producer, Screenwriter
Bill Butler Cinematographer
Richard Chew Editor
Doug von Koss Set Decoration/Design
Walter Murch Editor, Sound/Sound Designer
Chuck Myers Asst. Director
Clark Paylow Production Manager
Art Rochester Sound/Sound Designer
Aggie Guerard Rodgers Costumes/Costume Designer
Fred Roos Co-producer
David Shire Score Composer
Jennifer Shull Casting
Dean Tavoularis Production Designer
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Conversation
1. Not Hurting Anyone [9:18]
2. Happy Birthday Harry [4:35]
3. Preeminent In The Field [6:13]
4. I Wanna Know You [8:17]
5. Don't Get Involved [4:44]
6. He'd Kill Us If He Got The Chance [8:29]
7. Surveillance Convention [8:33]
8. How'd You Do It? [2:06]
9. Tricked [19:09]
10. The Director [10:11]
11. Room 773 [8:27]
12. We'll Be Listening To You [11:45]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Conversation
   Play Film
   Scene Selection
   Special Features
      Close-Up On "The Conversation"
      Theatrical Trailer
      Audio Commentaries
         Director Francis Ford Coppola
         Editor Walter Murch
         Audio Commentaries: None
      DVD Production Credits
   Audio Set-Up
      Audio
         English 5.1 Surround
         French
      Subtitles
         English For The Deaf and Hard Of Hearing
         Subtitles: None
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    "We'll be listening.",

    The dreadfully real technology revealed during the Watergate investigations lent a special relevance to Francis Ford Coppola's film about wiretapping. However, the film's astonishingly prophetic script was written five years before the film was made and the Watergate scandal broke. It is Coppola's most successfully realized work to date. In "The Conversation", Coppola combines the technological monsters we know are real with those we suspect to be real and focuses finally and most ruthlessly on one person no one thinks much about: the man doing the listening. Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), is a security specialist who performs wiretapping and eavesdropping operations for powerful clients. A requirement of the job is a profound personal detachment. A professional, he is a solitary soul he relates most actively to the world via the technology at his disposal. Even his hobby, playing the saxophone along with jazz records, relies on his interaction with impersonal strangers. He evinces a neurotic fear of precisely what he does to others he is absolutely phobic about his privacy, keeps an unlisted phone number and shuns all social contact, the exception being his girlfriend (Teri Garr). Throughout the film, regardless of the weather, he wears a transparent raincoat, as if to sanitize himself from his environment. At confession, he admits to stealing newspapers. Only a virtuoso performance by Gene Hackman incorporates these striking contradictions within a plausible character Harry's career forces him to maintain an elaborate and at times ridiculous system of repressed instincts, rather like Maupassant, who disliked the Eiffel Tower so much that he ate lunch in its observation deck every day so he wouldn't have to look at it. As a thriller plain and simple, the film is without peer. It has a slow and careful pace at first that accelerates to moments of indescribable fright. There is a bathroom scene that will make you afraid ever to use indoor plumbing again and a twist ending so completely surprising and convincing as to change the meaning of every scene in the film and make the denouement of "Psycho" seem predictable in comparison. Coppola was not the first filmmaker to present a nightmare world of humans without humanity or human rights. But his nightmare is the most convincing because it is the world in which we live. [filmfactsman]

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    Posted August 16, 2011

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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    Posted July 24, 2010

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 8 Customer Reviews