The Conversation

The Conversation

DVD - 2000
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A provoking mystery-suspense drama explores the morality of privacy in the story of Harry Caul, a surveillance expert, who conducts a routine surveillance job only to later find himself suspicious that he has become an unwitting player in murder scheme.
Publisher: Hollywood, Calif. : Paramount Pictures, c2000
ISBN: 9780792160878
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (113 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in


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Jan 19, 2019

Watch closely as Coppola unfolds his masterpiece.
A brilliant movie from an age gone by which perfectly foreshadows and articulates the age of pervasive surveillance to come. Gene Hackman’s performance is Oscar worthy.

Dec 16, 2018

Nobody ever said that Francis Ford Coppola made ugly movies, and The Conversation is gorgeously lit, shot, and edited throughout. I found it rather a spellbinder largely because of its calculated good looks but also because of Gene Hackman's performance of a surveillance engineer, Harry Caul, with a streak of Catholic guilt that gets a jolt when he thinks his latest job might just lead to a murder. The acting of John Cazale as Harry's right hand man and Allen Garfield as his professional would-be peer is also exceptional, and between them and Hackman, the movie grabs and holds interest, even without any really chewy woman's role in it. Music and sound effects are pretty fine, too; thank you, again, soundtrack whiz Walter Murch, and you, too, composer David Shire. A couple of bad decisions about what to show greatly weaken, however, the surprise ending; the up-in-the-air finale might have been more disturbing if the plot secret were left not as seemingly certainly ascertained. Kudos, as well, to Dean Tavoularis's striking production design (just what was Harry's "shop" supposed to have been?). All that said, the incredible melodramatic plot engine prevents most of anything humanly or philosophically interesting in the material from really registering. One of the greatest fault of post-'60s American movies is a constantly burgeoning improbability, making most of them seem so much contrived piffle. Unfortunately, The Conversation has quite the aroma of contrivance about it. --Ray Olson

Oct 29, 2018

Perhaps Hackman's best film of his illustrious career as a premier action hero.

Excellent presentation of the hi-tech invasive culture.

Oct 06, 2018


Aug 08, 2018

Coppola wrote and directed this in the early 1970s, between his two Godfathers and before Apocalypse Now. The critics speak highly of it, as do several of the reviewers on this site, so I thought I would see how well it has aged. Not well was my reaction. The concept is interesting as a foretaste of the surveillance state, but the film is overlong, with too many scenes that are self-consciously 'arty', a trait that dooms any movie. Sure, you can look for traces of Kafka and Dostoevsky if you like, but the film's message is not delivered with focus and economy - and too much time is spent belabouring the obvious. The surprise ending is right, and Gene Hackman's performance is terrific (in contrast to Harrison Ford's wooden walk-on). But I just could not see that this film lives up to all the praise it has been given.

Jul 04, 2018

A fascinating story of one man's horrific realization that it is impossible to meddle in other people's lives and remain morally neutral. The tragic consequences of his actions and his subsequent fall from grace are captured perfectly by Coppola's unblinking camera. Rife with religious imagery and a keen sense of sight and sound, this is an American classic

Oct 26, 2017

this is Kafka dressed up in late 20th-Century clothing - WOW - a man turning into a fly, metaphorically, of course, speaking, caught up in the technicalities of surveillance, then plagued by their moral implications - Gene Hackman gives the best performance here, however overlooked, however uncelebrated, of his career, he is the quintessential exisentialist anti-hero, bar none, move over Albert Camus - the cinematography, the blocking produce moments that are utterly painterly, exquisitely poetic - and the suspense doesn't let up till the very transformational end - a film to often revisit

Jun 02, 2016

I watched this because it was included in a list of films about privacy. It was great, portraying the issues of surveillance and its impact on our behaviour in a very thought-provoking manner. Some of the aspects of the film being shot in the bad old 70's really took me aback, but it made me think about the way our world has changed - in no small part due to the prevalence of interception of communication - and what that means for how we approach what we now intentionally share.

Its intensely slow pace was important. We had to hear some of the tape over and over in order to appreciate the point that communication is fallible, and so much of what we "understand" is really just our own perception.

JCLJanineM Sep 10, 2015

This is a great classic film that presages and frames the issue of technical surveillance in a way that is very relevant to today's world. Great acting with a great plot. If you're already paranoid about your privacy, don't watch it.

Sep 05, 2015

Excellent movie one you get into it.
you must be totally focused to watch it.

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May 25, 2012

Bernie Moran: "I bet you there's no moment between human beings I cannot record - and there's no method I cannot figure out, huh?"

May 25, 2012

Harry Caul (dreaming): "I'm not afraid of death... ...I am afraid of murder..."

May 25, 2012

Martin Stett (on the phone): "We know that you know, Mr. Caul. For your own sake, don't get involved any further. We'll be listening to you." (plays back recording of Harry playing saxophone)


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