Thursday, December 9, 2010

#125. The Conversation (1974)

DVD Synopsis: Francis Ford Coppola's provoking mystery-drama explores the morality of privacy and stars Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, expert surveillance man. A routine wire-tapping job turns into a modern nightmare as Harry hears something disturbing in his recording of a young couple in a park. He begins to worry about what the tape may be used for and becomes involved in a maze of secrecy and murder. Set in San Francisco, the film also features Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford and Frederic Forrest. Nominated for Best Picture of 1974, The Conversation was made between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II.

Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is considered an expert, perhaps even a legend, in the security field. It's a shame he doesn’t really like his job. In fact, you might even say he’s grown to hate it. 

As a thriller, The Conversation is more than effective, but the driving force behind the film is the character of Harry Caul, and how this profession of eavesdropping on private conversations has finally gotten the best of him. Harry has multiple locks on his apartment door (when his landlady leaves a birthday present for him in his room, Harry is less interested in the contents of the gift than in knowing how she got past his security system to leave it), and trusts nobody, not his partner, Stan (John Cazale), nor even his part-time girlfriend, Amy (Teri Garr). He remains an extremely private man, and feels he must be very careful in everything he says and does. After all, if Harry can get to anyone with his surveillance equipment, who’s to say there isn’t someone who can get to Harry?

The Conversation is both a gripping thriller and, thanks to Gene Hackman's excellent performance, an engaging character study, revealing the inner workings of a man whose career choices have pushed him to the brink of insanity.

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