Submit Your
Comedy
List
The deadline for the Top Comedies of All Time list is coming up! Submit your ballot now, or read about it here

MoFo Movie Club : The Conversation

Tools    





A system of cells interlinked
We are now officially open for discuassion on Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation.

Have at it folks, I am going to hold off on my comments for now, as I have a ton, and want to get some POV from some other folks first. I have seen this film a few times now, and there is a ton of great stuff to chat about!

Have fun!
__________________
"There’s absolutely no doubt you can be slightly better tomorrow than you are today." - JBP



Standing in the Sunlight, Laughing
::skids into thread::

I LOVED The Conversation.
I didn't expect to, either. I've never been a fan of Gene Hackman. His portrayal of Harry Caul was amazing, though. His characters are usually one bland sheen of machismo, IMO. This had only flashes of that, punctuating a very vulnerable character that had leagues of depth. I found his desire for privacy to be relatable, despite the extremity of his lifestyle, because he gave you the sense that he's a feeling person who has solid reasons for being private. He did a brilliant job.

The other thing that sent me over the moon was the attention to detail on the part of Frances Ford Coppola. Watching with his commentary, he points out a lot of supporting details, like outside Harry's window, the facade of a building is being dismantled, while Harry is experiencing a similar dismantling of his mysterious facade.

The story is very smart - we're following a very compelling character who is dealing with very the very universal themes of guilt and trust. The central character, Harry, is someone with whom we identify, but who is also intriguing, as his world is a secret one that we get to peep into. Coppola underscores this voyeuristic sensation with the camera work to great effect.

This was a great suggestion, Sedai. I'd never seen this, and am really glad I did. It's now a favorite. 10/10
__________________
Review: Cabin in the Woods 8/10



First let me start by saying I think The Conversation holds the great Gene Hackman's single greatest performance. His controlled and subtle work as the quiet Harry Caul is fantastic. His posture, his eyes, his entire manner are transformitory from the more blustery roles he was (and still is) better known for, like Popeye Doyle in The French Connection or Buck Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde. Caul is a man who hardly speaks above a whisper, and keeps his affairs meticulously guarded - even though his profession is eavesdropping and recording other people's stolen moments or clandestine meetings that they mistakenly believe are private.

I think the central character and the movie are timeless, but the theme was very much of its time as well. The Watergate scandal infused many with a renewed cynicism, and conspiratorial suspicion applied toward pillars of power was understandably the mode of the day. The Conversation takes that atmosphere and mixes it with a wealthy businessman and a love triangle that may be destined for a murder, with Harry Caul the ear-witness audience who may have a couple pieces of the puzzle but may also be unable to stop the wheels of corruption that are in motion. The closer he gets to some sort of truth, the more and more he becomes entangled in the conspiracy himself, perhaps inexorably. That Coppola was able to fashion a script that so perfectly summed up that feeling of helplessness and paranoia while also telling a good mystery and with an interesting and complicated central character is a rare and special achievement.

And man, do I love David Shire's score.

I love The Conversation and think it is at least the equal in quality to the other little movie Coppola released that year (The Godfather Part II).


ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrhRsZ56b4g
Attachments
Click image for larger version

Name:	terlit.jpg
Views:	1613
Size:	33.5 KB
ID:	7485  
__________________
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra



A system of cells interlinked
What a film. What a fantastic piece of work The Conversation is. Not to rehash the above comments from my esteemed collegues, i must still mention Hackman's magnificent performance. So subtle, yet so potent. I fully agree with you folks.

This time when I watched the film, I was sort of hung up on the constant...hmmm...obfuscation metaphor throughout the film. The fog in the dream sequence, plastic curtains, a piece of blue plastic, phone booth glass, frosted balcony glass, a cage...the list goes on. We are presented with characters and concepts that are always just a little bit out of our full perception, jsut as harry grapples with material that is just out of his full perception. There is no opacity here, more like translucency. We get most of the material, but a small percentage is missing, just like Harry's project. He has almost all of the conversation, but a few bits are missing, due to either technical issues with the equipment, or equipment placement. I love the way Coppola portrays this concept constantly throughout the film, and I hadn't really picked up on it during the initial viewing of the film a while back.

Another thing I love is the subtle nods to surveillance he sprinkles into the film. For instance, the final shot in the film reminds me of a rigidly panning security camera in some corporate hallway. Back and forth, back and forth.... Wonderful.

Also, the sound design! So good. I love these 70s films with all the clunky old recording equipment and magnetic tape being spooled about. Blow-out is another (admittedly a bit lesser) film that has many scenes with a sound tech punching heavy mechanical keys and winding tape along. Something about the look and sound of this stuff just brings me there, and gets me all involved in whatever the tech is working on. Little plastic touch keys on newer sound and video equipment just doesn't set the mood for me.

I must also mention the wonderful lighting in The Conversation. Some may complain it's a bit to dim in places, but I dig that sort of low key lighting.



I am having a nervous breakdance
I would like to compare The Conversation a little bit to Antonioni's Blow Up (future movie club selection?). I've often heard that both The Conversation and De Palma's Blow Out are greatly in debt to Blow Up and after having seen Antonioni's piece for the first time and re-watched The Conversation for the sake of this discussion I partly agree. Coppola basically used some of the concept for Blow Up but, imo, made something personal and almost entirely different of it. Or, he and Hackman made something personal of it. Blow Up and The Conversation are really two completely different stories, but they are presented in similar ways or using some similar cinematic or narrative techniques. The open end, the absence of the actual murder (what did really happen?), the fabrication of things in the protagonist's mind...

I don't want to talk to much about Blow Up since it's not the film we're supposed to discuss. But, shortly put, that film is about everything around us being a fabrication in some way and everything is true if we believe in it hard enough. At the same time, things you were absolutely certain of can also be switched around and you can pretty easily be made uncertain of if they really happened. Typical for Antonioni is also the open end, we don't get to find out what really happened, which is some kind of symbolism for reality: in real life there's often no solution to all problems. There's not a clear beginning and a definitive ending to everything in life. And this is depicted beautifully through the portrait of the protagonist, the photographer, and in the way he tries to solve a murder mystery.

There are many.. I wouldn't call them similarities, rather parallels, between Blow Up and The Conversation. But to me Coppola's film is more about a personal downbreak, like you guys allready said, while Antonioi's film is about some kind of state of society (3˝ decades before The Matrix ). The Conversation though is actually also both a social and a political comment. It shows how technique and bureaucracy controls the society and how the kind of work that people like Harry Caul does litterally kill people. There is also this religious undertone. Caul wants to do right and is haunted by the past in many ways. Just like the main character in Blow Up, Caul is piecing together bits of a puzzle. But while the photographer in Blow Up documented an event that had allready taken place, Caul thinks he can use his skills to prevent this terrible thing to happen. At the same time, if it does happen, it's partly because of him. And driven by what I see as fear of God's wrath, he desperately tries to save this girl. It's about penance. He wants to make up for all the bad things he's done in the past, only to find out that she wasn't the one that needed to be saved.

This is a triumph for Gene Hackman. The way he portraits Caul is fantastic. This sad figure who seems to hate what he has become but at the same time has not a clue what else to be. The saxophone playing shows perhaps a broken dream, a trace of what he once was before society turned him into a conformist. At the same time there is the religious belief. He hesitates before he destroys the statuette of the Madonna, but he loses that battle too...
__________________
The novelist does not long to see the lion eat grass. He realizes that one and the same God created the wolf and the lamb, then smiled, "seeing that his work was good".

--------

They had temporarily escaped the factories, the warehouses, the slaughterhouses, the car washes - they'd be back in captivity the next day but
now they were out - they were wild with freedom. They weren't thinking about the slavery of poverty. Or the slavery of welfare and food stamps. The rest of us would be all right until the poor learned how to make atom bombs in their basements.



Standing in the Sunlight, Laughing
Coppola mentions Blow Up in the commentary for The Conversation, which is one of the better commentaries I've watched. He points out a lot of cool stuff.



I am having a nervous breakdance
Originally Posted by SamsoniteDelilah
Coppola mentions Blow Up in the commentary for The Conversation, which is one of the better commentaries I've watched. He points out a lot of cool stuff.
It would be really interesting to hear what Coppola has to say about Blow Up. What has Coppola to say about Blow Up?



I loved this movie, i haven't seen it for years, I am still waiting for it from Fetch Movies, so I can watch it again
__________________
Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.
Buddha



The People's Republic of Clogher
I feel a bit 'after the Lord Mayor's show' here but finally got my hands on The Conversation a few days ago.

What more can I say though? Fantastic film. Hackman's portrayal of a lonely, neurotic and guilt-ridden man is one of the performances of '70s cinema and his change from a man only concerned with doing his job to a man concerned about how his job affects others is beautifully handled in it's pathos and subtlety.

Equal credit in this to Hackman, Coppola, David Shire's haunting piano-driven score and Walter Murch's (who's commentary I'm just about to listen to) sound editing.

Originally Posted by Piddzilla
It would be really interesting to hear what Coppola has to say about Blow Up. What has Coppola to say about Blow Up?
He doesn't say a great deal, other than both films have an integral plot point which has been hidden and slowly decyphered.
__________________
"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how the Tatty 100 is done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves." - Brendan Behan



Standing in the Sunlight, Laughing
Originally Posted by Piddzilla
It would be really interesting to hear what Coppola has to say about Blow Up. What has Coppola to say about Blow Up?
oops, missed this til I just noticed Taci had answered it.
Blow Up was, as he said, mentioned in passing. It's still turning up in every setting though: I'm reading a book by Carl Sagan and even HE mentions it!



The People's Republic of Clogher
Originally Posted by SamsoniteDelilah
oops, missed this til I just noticed Taci had answered it.
Blow Up was, as he said, mentioned in passing. It's still turning up in every setting though: I'm reading a book by Carl Sagan and even HE mentions it!
Murch is also referencing it (more than Coppola did actually) in his commentary, but I'll finish that off tomorrow now.



A system of cells interlinked
Originally Posted by Piddzilla
As I said earlier, it would be really cool if we could discuss Blow Up sometime in the future.
I am down for it, and I already have the film in my queue...



I got for good luck my black tooth.
I know I'm late but I just saw The Conversation and there are three things I would like to discuss. The first two relate to Sam's comment about the film's attention to detail. In an early scene in the film, Caul walks into a crowd and the camera doesn't do the usual and follow him. It just stays fixed on the crowd as a whole. I looked down for a second and just as could easily happen in such a big city: I lost sight of him in the crowd! The other point of realism that in which this film doesn't do something that most do is this: Caul has a nightmare about his current situation, and when he wakes up, he doesn't gasp or scream with fright as he would have if this was just about any other film I have seen in which someone has a nightmare. He simply wakes up and goes about his business. Also did the last scene remind anyone of the expression: "Nero fiddled while Rome Burned"?
__________________
"Like all dreamers, Steven mistook disenchantment for truth."



The People's Republic of Clogher
I may be wrong but think Coppola said he was striving to make the camera look as if it were a passive observer, ie a fixed security camera or one that's been hidden (much the same as Harry's job). The scenes in Caul's apartment show this well, I think, with the odd angles. So if the camera is 'following' or spying on Harry I agree that it's perfectly natural to lose him once in a while.

It's a beautifully constructed film.