The Conversation

The Conversation

Director: Francis Ford Coppola Cast: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield
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The Conversation 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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]
ChandlerSwain More than 1 year ago
"The Conversation" was one of two films Francis Ford Coppola released in 1974, the other being the inferior "The Godfather, Part 2". In this film, blatantly inspired by Antonioni's "Blow-Up", Coppola traces a narrative within the mind of a single human being. Gene Hackman brilliantly portrays the recessive Harry Caul, a master surveillance expert who is himself eaten up by the prospect of his own loss of privacy. Privacy means security, even the very seed of survival, to Caul; especially in his experience,as his prowling has led to the death of several people. The film opens with an impressive longshot of a public square, seemingly insignificant, but as the camera very slowly zooms in we begin to notice individuals who soon become the subject of the drama. We are in the midst of another of Caul's ingenious surveillance operations, the target being the wife of a shadowy figure only referred to as "The Director" and the man she is having a conversation with: the conversation of the title and the subject of this absorbing film. Just who are these people, and what are they talking about? Coppola and his editor/sound designer Walter Murch compose several elaborate sequences of aural detection, brimming with discovery that unlock the mysteries of these questions, until Caul begins to realize the deadly implications of his discovery. Or so he thinks. The film is the study of an internal man; it is practically cinema of the first-person. We only know what Caul knows. We only see and hear what he does, and so even the unexplained threads of the film, especially the mystery of the final scene puzzle us because they do him. This is a daring approach for what is essentially a thriller. The pace is slow, but only because it reflects the plodding, paranoid character of it's protagonist; a character ironically named as he often is seen in a transparent rain garment that resembles a protective caul. The casting is uniformly outstanding, with exceptional work turned in by the late, great John Cazale. But there are problems with the film. Despite the fact we only know what Caul knows, his motivations don't always follow a logical progression, and a series of amateurish blunders leading to the theft of the prized recorded tapes is almost unfathomable by a man who lives his life in extreme caution. Also, a precognitive dream he has of a savage act of violence mirrors exactly one that occurs: are we to belive he is psychic? Or is this just Coppola's way of jazzing up the story? But most jarring is the great narrative twist that occurs when the mystery is solved in the taped conversation; a switcheroo only able to occur as Coppola blatantly changes the inflection, and therefore the meaning, of a key word in the conversation- one that we've heard a dozen times in the film and so can't help but notice the obvious cheat. Still. Coppola saves his greatest mystery for the last scene, a torturous riddle that sends Caul and the audience into a shattered acknowledgement that no one is private (safe). Narrative gaffes aside, this is one of the landmarks of a remarkable year (1974) that saw the release of many impressive paranoid studies of America ("Man On a Swing", "The Parallax View", "Chinatown"). The fine musical score by David Shire is deceptively simple in it's elegance. The DVD is spectacular both is picture and (especially) sound. There are several extras, all of them illuminating.
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