Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)

1974 was a banner year for film. Francis Ford Coppola led the charge writing and directing two classics. The first and more well known of these two films is The Godfather: Part II. His second film of the year, which went largely unnoticed is The Conversation. The Conversation is the story of Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), an expert surveillance man who is hired to wire-tap a conversation between another a man and a woman. The routine job turns into a nightmare as he hears something disturbing in the recording. Gene Hackman is in top form as the expert surveillance man whom is having trouble dealing with his past. Harry Caul is both highly religious as well as paranoid. The contents of the tape begin to take over Harry's life and as he begins to fear for his own safety. In a strong supporting role as Stan (John Calaze) steals every scene he is in, in this film playing Harry's partner. Which, as he does as well in the six other films he did before his untimely passing just four years later. A young Harrison Ford plays Martin Stett, the man who hired Stan. Both of their performances stand out in thanks to the strong ensemble cast which includes Cindy Williams, Terri Garr and a cameo from Robert Duvall. The Conversation is a remarkable look at the modern art of surveillance, not from the view of those affected, but by the ones doing the surveying and the affect it can have on them. It works wonderfully as both a character piece and a thriller, and is one of the best films of the 1970's. An overlooked and underappreciated gem.

Final Grade: A+

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