Sunday, February 5, 2017

Movie Review: "The Conversation" (1974)

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Movie"The Conversation"
Year Nominated: 1975
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

A private surveillance expert (Gene Hackman) records the conversation between a man and a woman, but has a conflict of faith and morality when past demons lead him to question his profession.

"The Conversation" is written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who is the renowned director of "The Godfather" series, as well as the brilliant war picture "Apocalypse Now." This film focuses on the owner and operator of a private surveillance company named Harry Caul, played by the incomparable Gene Hackman. Harry's current assignment is to piece together a recording of a couple who is having a conversation as they walk around a crowded courtyard. After he puts the tape together on his own using three separate machines to record their talk, Harry begins to worry about the couple's safety due to the nature of their conversation. Incidents from his past plague his conscience, and a crisis of faith makes him question his whole profession.

This is a film that is part mystery thriller, part dramatic character sketch. We watch as Harry, who in the past has never had concerns regarding the content of the conversations he is hired to record, starts to obsess over this one case in particular. This is mainly because he blames himself for the aftermath of a case he had done a few years back. Harry is also a devout Catholic and has a lot of built up guilt about what he does for a living, which he just so happens to be the best at. Gene Hackman does a wonderful job selling the conflict that exists within Harry's mind and faith. It is also fascinating that he listens to conversations and watches people constantly, but has almost no ability to connect with them on a personal level. The fact that he spies on people tends to make him rather paranoid himself, and understandably so, so he keeps a tidy, nondescript house and attire, apart from his love of jazz and saxophone music.

We maintained very compelled by the mystery of the case Harry works on in "The Conversation." It is enthralling to hear and watch what the couple is talking about and what it all means as we personally piece the puzzle together on our own. We also found ourselves engaged with understanding Harry himself and his concerns about the affect his work has on other people and whether or not he can spiritually and legally be held responsible for how his clients react to the information he uncovers. This movie was nominated for three Academy awards, including best picture. It didn't get to take any Oscars home the year it came out, but we doubt Coppola was too upset since it lost to his very own film, a little movie called "The Godfather Part II." This is a really great slow-burning, suspenseful film that shows Gene Hackman and John Cazele in their top form.

Last Oscar season, we were watching: "Million Dollar Baby"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "Goodfellas"

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