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The Conversation
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  • The Commentaries Embellish This DVD
    This is an excellent piece of filmaking. Very, very underated to date although many of the Amazon posts catch this piece of story telling. Like the parallel editing sequence that MADE the end of Godfather 1, really kill (pardon the pun) at least according to Robert Evans (The Kid Stays in the Picture)-it is interesting to note that this particular new editor of "The Conversation"-contributed alot of great ideas to the story as well as working on the sound mixing. FFC was off working on Godfather II, so perhaps the Editor has a little more freedom and time to work his magic. Funny-most of the workers of the young studio were non-union so he could not even be credited as a picture or sound Editor. Famous Director of Photography Haskell Wexler was "let go" by Francis very early on and replaced. This action gave the film a superior look, for the theme of the film. You have to love the retro vibe of all that electronic tape gear in the digital age we now live. The visual look is crisp and stunning. If you view this DVD-watch BOTH commentaries. The haunting piano melody over the DVD Menu and that appears throughout the story-is worth appreciation alone. I actually sat down and counted out both sets of machine gun triplets in what is a rather dreamy piece of solo piano. As many have said already-this belongs in your DVD library. And let's not forget the early work here of Harrison Ford-complete with scar on his chin; Cindy Williams; Robert Duvall and Teri Garr. Enjoy and relish. People ARE watching and listening. Even Gene Hackman's sax has "ears."...more info
  • A CHAMBER-MUSIC MASTERPIECE
    Reading over the reviews here of this remarkable movie, I'd say most of its virtues have been well covered, and what's behind most of the bad reviews uncovered: people who don't get this movie are ones who need the usual thriller or Godfather stuff, which this film doesn't provide. It's small-scale, enormously subtle in story and acting, and its originality is as subtle as the rest of it. Among the trio of friends who came up together--Spielberg and Lucas the others--I think Coppola was the only real grownup, and the most ambitious to say something truly serious, though he also had the grand visual flair of the other two. The Conversation is at the heart of his work. If I had to compare it to anything, it'd be the Melville story "Benito Cereno," in which we think we know what's going on but we don't, not at all. Other reviewers mention the "philosophical" aspect. For me, here's what that's about: With the most sophisticated technology available, professional bugger Harry Caul finds out what two people said. But what he doesn't understand is the _meaning_ of what they said, and the meaning is what makes the difference. The way Coppla reveals that, with a little trick of sound, is for all its quietness one of the most brilliant and hair-raising moments I know in film. It's a parable of technology, of the meaning of truth, of the nature of preconceptions (who we expect to be the bad guys aren't) and lots else--the philosophically inclined can take their pick. In my own list of greatest movies of all time, this is somewhere in the first five. If you don't need exploding fireballs in your thrillers and know great acting and directing when you see it, this movie is as good as it gets....more info
  • You need a lazy afternoon for this one
    The development, acting and plot progression is exceptional. In comparison with today's Big Brother thrillers, The Conversation appears to be a slow-moving flick. The viewer is gradually pulled inside the head of a burned-out spy who happens upon the conversation of a couple with bad intentions. His feeling of isolation becomes real to the viewer, and you begin your search with the same information with which our spy is equipped. His paranoia and desperation are well portrayed. Getting past the dragging introduction, a viewer can involve himself in the quest of the spy to solve the mystery. Not an exciting film for group enjoyment, yet quality is undeniable....more info
  • Chilling Classic
    The classic always seems to be the best well believe it or not I had to see this movie because a good deal of parts seem to be found in his more recent "Enemy of the State" Staring Gene Hackman and Will Smith with the tones being the same only in a more technology based society. Keeps you wondering "WHO" and does your job make what you do bad as the addage goes depends if you view the whole picture and not judge on just fragments. Strong, riviting, with a twist....more info
  • "Apt"
    The best thing about the film is the particular conversation that happens between a man and a woman.To hear that conversation, repeatedly, you must watch this film just once. No, this film won't change your life but yeah it will make you smile that odd smile we go to the movies to watch. It's been 33 years and I should add this film has aged well. WATCH OUT FOR THE START. This is an ideal watch when alone. Don't watch it with Harry or Sally. A dog? Yeah, maybe. Cheers. ...more info
  • Great seventies' film . . . one nagging issue though.
    A very enjoyable experience about voyeurism and who's watching the watchers (... Jerry? [sorry for the "Seinfeld" reference]). I won't go into detail about the film as others have already done so, but one thing I don't think the Gene Hackman character would have done is to invite everyone back to his place after the convention. I mean, the guy is so obsessive-compulsive and particular about his stuff that he wouldn't let a bunch of drinkers into his workshop. Not a big deal, but something that bothers me a bit . . ....more info
  • "I'm not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder."
    Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" will not be confused with any of his "Godfather" films. This film is not epic in scope. It is instead a small, claustrophobic character study told without the cinematic operatics. It is also a film that leaves virtually no impression on the viewer after it is over.

    Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a surveillance expert with a tragic past. Hiring himself out for private jobs, he accepts an assignment to eavesdrop on two individuals walking together in public. The recording he produces is not perfect but it suggests that a murder might soon be taking place. Harry tries to ignore the fact that his recording might lead to dire consequences by telling himself he was just doing his job. However, his conscience continues to torment him and he becomes obsessed with solving the mystery behind the conversation he recorded.

    "The Conversation" is fascinating for providing a behind-the-scenes look at the art of professional eavesdropping. Yet, it is tedious as a character study. The film does a great job of defining Harry Caul as a disaster of a man on both a professional and a personal level. However, watching Harry come apart at the seams is not exactly riveting entertainment despite Hackman's wonderful performance. The entire film simply feels out of balance because there is too much emphasis on character and not enough emphasis on story. Upon its release, "The Conversation" offered up some interesting commentary on the current orientation of the country shortly before Watergate, but it just feels over-simplistic and lacking content-wise when viewed today....more info
  • Over The Top Coppola Masterpiece
    This is without a doubt one of the greatest personally insightful films that delves into the ambience of eavesdropping and mystery. I beg and incourage anyone who finds this film even remotely captivating to purchase this film.Yes, it doesn't contain action, but it proves that a film doesn't require action in order to be spectacular and mesmerizing.And I can't say that the premise sounds interesting but please believe me that there is more than meets the eye.

    In this film Gene Hackman (perhaps his greatest performance) plays a preeminant reclusive eavesdropper hired by the great Robert Duvall to eavesdrop on his wife played by Cindy Williams prior to Lovern and Shirley.That's just a superficial synopsis of this classic.The film also stars Harrison Ford, John Cazale who played Frado in the Godfather. Coppola brilliantly weaves mystery, isolation, loneliness, and conspiracy into this unique picture.

    So please do yourself a favor and watch this film instead of the rubbish that is being made these days. You won't regret it....more info
  • A Fantastic Little-Seen Masterpiece
    "The Conversation" is a little seen masterpiece from Francis Ford Coppola, made in between "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Pt. II." It's a mystery-drama, that plays like a horror movie similar to the Nicolas Roeg film "Don't Look Now" in the sense that works with dread, rather than fright. Two-time Academy Award winner Gene Hackman plays Harry Caul, a wiretapper whom we first meet as he's recording a conversation between a young couple in a park. Caul sees his job as a job, he doesn't get involved with the people he records nor does he pay much attention to the details of the conversation. He's supposed to record it and deliver it. His suspicions begin to grow about the tape when he tries to personally deliver it the mysterious person who asked for it and is instead badgered by the man's assistant (Harrison Ford) for it. At the same time we begin to realize how bad Caul is at his job. His partner Stanley (John Cazale) has quit and has already began working for another wiretapper. The superintendent at his apartment building has managed to get inside his multi-locked apartment to drop off a birthday present. A ladyfriend of his tells Harry about a time she watched his spying on someone for an hour...It's no wonder that when a rival wiretapper comes to his office with him he manages to record an intimant conversation between Harry and a woman. While the mystery revolving around "the conversation" continues, Harry begins deciphering some of the sentences and his suspicions are confirmed when he hears the sentence: "He'd kill us if he got the chance?" This question fuels the rest of the movie, until the very creepy and superb climax. Some of the most haunting parts of the film come at the end and this is due to the visuals of the film. One much-talked about scene comes when Harry flushes a toilet in a motel room and it begins overflowing with blood. This scene (and the few that follow it) are some of the most effectively creepy scenes I've seen in a long time. Gene Hackman is superb as Harry Caul, a multi-layered character that on the page must have seemed very one-dimensional. Harry is a man with no personal life, almost no friends, and he's a man that lives shrouded in mystery. Coppola had already proved by the time this movie came out that he was a cinematic genius, but he's mostly known for movies like "The Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now." Those films are 3 hour long epic films, but I think to really see how much range Coppola has as a director it's nice to take a look at "The Conversation." Few people have seen this movie, it's a much smaller scale film that most of his movies but it's truly a masterwork. Great acting, great direction, great art direction, and great cinematography.

    GRADE: A...more info
  • Outstanding work!
    In between Godfather films, Francis Ford Coppola made this masterpiece. There are many actors that would go on to bigger and better things. Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, John Cazale to name a few. But it's Gene Hackman's show, who gives his best performance since the French Connection. A classic!!...more info
  • Over-rated
    Apres "The Godfather," Francis Ford Coppola decided to indulge his artistic urges and this is what he produced. It's arty alright, but it's also very boring. Gene Hackman is wasted. A very young Harrison Ford is a hoot to see, though. There's a limited jazz soundtrack. It's primarily interesting as a film to look back at the very dated early '70s styles....more info
  • 70s gem ripe for rediscovery
    I was only a youngster when the Conversation was doing the rounds at the cinema. I preferred movies with blowing each other's heads off. And make no mistake, an action flick this ain't. In fact there isn't any action at all. Or sex for that matter. And it gets worse - this is also a film which requires your sustained attention, from the beginning if possible. This is a tall order for most people nowadays, but rest assured, once you get past the first fifteen minutes or so, you won't want to leave the sofa.
    Thoughtful, sensitive meditation on a man who is being slowly torn apart by his own contradictions. The lot unravels slowly, giving the viewer plenty of time to get under the skin of the protagonist, the bespectacled surveillance man, a consummate professional, dedicated, paranoid, emotionally blocked. Although Gene Hackman plays the role brilliantly, he's not the main attraction - that's the film itself. Much has been made about the film's paranoia motif, but it's not just about surveillance technology gone bonkers, it's about a man who is forced to face his own shortcomings. A great package, then, rather than a Hackman vehicle. A beautifully crafted film, with s superb soundtrack. And I'm glad I took the time to watch it after all these years.
    ...more info
  • Sound and Fury
    THE CONVERSATION (1974) does age well as a character study. Its technology seems dated, of course. Surveillance today I have no doubt would put that old reel to reel tape technology to shame, in the era of microchips and miniaturization. Coppola likes this little film, and he had trouble initially getting it produced. Only his success with THE GODFATHER allowed him the clout to twist a few arms. As a writer, influenced by Tennessee Williams, he wanted to take his small projects and make intimate films, not blockbusters. Isn't it odd that GODFATHER and APOCALYPSE NOW to this point stand as his cornerstone works, allowing him to do several other less successful smaller projects.

    Coppola chose his brother-in-law, David Shire to compose the music for THE CONVERSATION, and his haunting single piano seemed to hit just the right emotional timbre; and then to make Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) a saxophone player, who sits solo at night and wails away, was a wonderful secondary touch. Caul was such a cold fish, such a secretive human being; it was fun to hear complete statements coming from him in the language of jazz. It is an interesting name, Caul, meaning veil or membrane over the face of a fetus; heavy symbolism. Coppola stated that he was heavily influenced by Antonioni's BLOW UP (1966), and he liked the idea that the director's camera was watching the surveillance expert as he "listened" to other characters; working in a mystery that was also homage to Hitchcock. He, like Antonioni, shot abstractly at his characters, through and around plastic a lot; smoked barriers, rippled windows, pebbled glass, and the incessant appearance of Caul's god awful clear plastic raincoat.

    Robert Duvall did an uncredited cameo, and Frederic Forrest, John Cazale, and Teri Garr all did fine work as members of his repertory. Allen Garfield did a bang up job as the competing surveillance expert, Bernie Moran. Garr's sweet, yet sad, cloistered mistress cloys to our minds, in her white socks and short blond locks. A nice surprise was how good Harrison Ford really was in what could have been a non-descript walk on. Coppola was impressed with his inventiveness. Hackman found in Caul a character he could barely live with, and he had difficulty shedding it off camera. Still it stands as some of his best work

    Haskell Wexler shot the big opening sequence in the park, with the whole surveillance team. Then he and Coppola had an "artistic difference of opinion", and he was replaced by Bill Butler who did a seamless job of the rest of the film. Coppola said he closed down the film four days early because he was so stressed out. The dream sequence with Caul and Cindy Williams in the park, midst all that fog, was supposed to be part of the actual ending of the film, but the fog machine got out of hand, and people complained, sending in the SF police to harass the team. Coppola was faced with providing us with a different ending, and he found a perfect one. Caul, at last succumbed to his personal paranoia, tearing up his apartment looking for the bug Moran used on him, and then sitting exhausted in the wreckage, blowing out his pain in jazz riffs on his sax. Coppola suggested later that the bug might have been in the saxophone strap itself.
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  • Better than the "Godfather"(sacrilege to some I know but true)
    Yes I said it and I'm glad i said it,I love the "Godfather" and it is one of the best movies ever made but this is one rung above it. Now that I've mad everyone mad< let me tell you why I love it this much.
    Gene Hackman HAS NEVER BEEN BETTER THAN HE IS HERE. His Harry Caul is a man defined by his work only. He has no real life of his own, he just spies on real lives for his own gain. He just does a job, it's the people who hire him who are responsible for what is done with the knowledge he gives them. All of this changes on his latest job, as he begins to suspect that the young couple he is asked to tape is being set up to be killed. From the first shot to the last heartbreaking, but logical shot Hackman owns this spellbinding movie about paranoia and personal liberties being taken from you. It more than holds up today,even if the technology is now dated. There is no wild car chase or big bangs here only food for thought tied to a very downbeat but fantastic script. Mr. Coppola has outdone himself here and the film is his masterpiece in my eyes. Not one false note or scene in this one,as close to prefect as a movie gets. YOU WILL NEVER FORGET IT ONCE YOU SEE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!...more info
  • Snooze......
    We loved "Enemy of the State" and this was recommended as the movie that led up to it. BORING! This movie is NOTHING like Enemy of the State, it was slow, predictable and a total sleeper. The only reason we watched to the end was that we were SURE it had to get better....it did not....more info
  • Great
    There are some works of art that are obviously derivative of others, and obviously inferior, because they simply ape the earlier work, tweak a few minor things, and try to pass off their theft as `homage'. The Conversation (1974), written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is not one of those minor works. It has a manifest endebtedness to Michelangelo Antonioni's brilliant 1966 film, Blowup, yet it does not merely ape that film's existential dilemma of an accidental photograph possibly cluing its lead character into murder. Instead, The Conversation probes far more deeply into its lead character Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) and his life, to see what might cause a man to misinterpret reality to suit his own psychic needs.
    Another major difference is that the tale in Blowup is one that is wholly accidental, whereas the story The Conversation is built upon is an outgrowth of the deliberate and paid for actions of Caul, the leading West Coast surveillance expert, who has been hired by the mysterious Director (Robert Duvall) of a giant corporation to spy on his wife Ann (Cindy Williams) and her lover Mark (Frederick Forrest). The film opens, around Christmastime, with Caul and his entourage tailing and listening in to the conversation of the two lovers as they stroll in Union Square, an open air park in downtown San Francisco. The fragmented bits of conversation he pieces together only later, and comes to feel that the couple is being set up for murder by his employer. The opening zoom down from a sniper's eye level, focuses on a mime (Robert Shields) who is annoying people in the square. Eventually he sidles up to and mimics Caul, who walks away. The opening scene was filmed by Haskell Wexler, and the rest of the film by Bill Butler, who took over after Wexler and Coppola had a falling out.
    It is a shame that in the nearly thirty years since the 1970s, Coppola has never made a film that comes close to the power of his films from that era. Despite its debt to Blowup, The Conversation is a far more realistic and multi-layered film. That does not mean it's better nor worse than Blowup, just not a ripoff. It is far more internalized, even if a little less subjective, than the earlier film. This seeming disconnect between the objective and that witnessed by the audience only deepens the desire to rewatch the film. Especially great is the fact that the film's lead is the sort of character other films ignore, to focus on one of the players in the love triangle, or perhaps Martin Stett. Caul is a functionary, an apparatchik- yet he's real, and his struggle is every bit as interesting as the `sexier characters'. Yet Coppola heeds Juvenal's query from his sixth Satire: `Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?' (`Who watches the watchmen?') There are many watchers in this film, yet the final watcher is the audience, and what they watch is greatness, simple in its complexity.
    The Conversation is a great, simple, and small film, never too long at an hour and fifty-three minutes, and it may be Coppola's best. It was very timely, considering the milieu of Watergate, but the idea came to him in 1967. It started filming in late 1972, and wrapped shortly before Watergate came to light, yet it has been lost between the three other titanic films he made in the 1970s: The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II, and Apocalypse Now. Whereas those three films were operatic, this film is a chamber piece, and apropos of that, the piano only soundtrack by Coppola's brother in law David Shire, so reminiscent of Erik Satie piano pieces, is perfect, for, as Coppola says in his commentary, the piano is a lonely instrument; lonely as Harry Caul, or an unanswered question.
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  • One gem: one lady between two giants
    A Cannes' winner among other virtues, this film is like the fourth symphony of Beethoven: a princess between two power muscle men.
    In fact the godfather I and II literally absorbed and in a certain way detoured, (together with Appocalyse now) the attention about this movie.
    A genuine masterpiece that confirms the status of Mr. Coppola to the highest rank in the cinema's story.
    Hcakman has never been best....more info