Harry Caul, a steely cold name for a nearly impenetrable man. Harry, played by Gene Hackman, is one of the best surveillance experts in the field. Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” was filmed in between the first and second installments of “The Godfather”. The film borrowed themes from Michelangelo Atoinoni’s “Blow Up” and in turn inspired Brian DePalma’s (much lesser) “Blow Out”. “The Conversation” stands as one of the best films of the New Hollywood movement.
Harry is a master of audio surveillance. He wraps himself in his work not letting anyone close. His goal is a “nice fat recording” and he tries to do his job without attachment to what is being recorded. His latest assignment is to record a conversation in a busy San Francisco public square without missing any dialogue. Harry finds himself slowly being drawn in to the couple he’s recording and wondering if his recording might result in their death. The danger brings back memories of an old assignment gone wrong where people died because of his work. Vowing not to let it happen again, Harry becomes more and more invested in the recording. He performs his own investigative work using his surveillance skills to get down to the bottom of the mystery. However, things may not be what they seem.
“The Conversation” is a fascinating mystery with plenty to say about privacy. “The Conversation” stands with the best during a creative time in American cinema. It’s not only a high watermark for films of the 70’s but remains a high point in a master filmmaker’s career in a decade which saw Coppola release both “Godfather” films and “Apocalypse Now”. “The Conversation” is also notable for early roles for Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford, John Cazale, and Teri Garr.
Bottom Line: “The Conversation” is a little known and underseen classic that deserves to be seen by casual filmgoers and film buffs alike.
Blu-ray special features include: Theatrical Trailer, vintage featurette, two full length commentaries (one by Coppola and the other by film editor Walter Murch), screen tests of Cindy Williams and Harrison Ford, and more.
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