Friday, November 8, 2013

Now on Amazon Prime: The Conversation (1974)

The Conversation movie poster
The Conversation (1974) – Written and Directed by Francois Ford Coppola; Cinematography by Bill Butler; Starring Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Frederic Forrest, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Robert Duvall, Teri Garr, Michael Higgins, Elizabeth McRae and Harrison Ford.

By Kenny Howell

Of Francis Ford Coppola's masterpieces in the 1970s (the first two Godfather films and Apocalypse Now), The Conversation gets left out of the conversation usually (see what I did there). Anyway, I think this one might be the best of the four, although I know that I am in the minority in that opinion.

Gene Hackman (Bonnie & Clyde) plays Harry Caul, the best bug man on the west coast. Not exterminator, but someone who plants bugs to record conversations. Caul, who has escaped back east after a tragedy resulted from one of his jobs, is given a new job to bug a couple’s conversation in a park. Quite difficult, but Caul figures out how to do it and gets the conversation on tape.

His job is just to bug the conversation, not get anything from it. But he is intrigued when he starts listening to it and thinks a murder will become of it. He becomes obsessed with figuring out what is going to happen and the paranoia and fear eats him alive. To add to that, he starts being watched by someone he doesn’t know as well.

Coppola was on a roll in the 1970s with this movie, the two Godfather pictures, and Apocalypse Now later in the decade. This film is phenomenal, especially the way Coppola uses sound to push his character deeper into the rabbit hole. He constantly replays the conversation over and over to where it starts to eat at the audience as much as it does Harry. The final scene is just about perfect.

As Harry, Hackman may have given his best performance. He is portraying a man who has something buried deep inside – the pain of the earlier tragedy – and piles this knew mystery, this anguish, on top of it.

Rating: ****

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