The Conversation Reviews
The acting may not be as strong as The Godfather, but it's still really strong. I especially thought that Gene Hackman did an exemplary job from the way he conveys emotion to his dialogue delivery.
The characters were steady and portrayed well, but I do have to say that they aren't the most memorable of characters.
The cinematography I also thought was really strong with some great shots scatted around the film.
The set designs and props were done very well from the various recording equipment to the building designs.
The film also had a very unique style from the cinematography to the way Francis Ford Coppola uses the recordings.
The sound design with the recordings is also done very well and in my opinion helps with the atmosphere of the film.
The soundtrack I personally really like from the piano to the way Francis Ford Coppola fits it into the film.
The story I found was interesting and intriguing. Throughout the runtime of the film I personally didn't really know what was going to happen next.
The film as well had a great atmosphere that had me on my feet for nearly the entire film.
The film in my opinion also had some great pacing from start to finish.
I also personally really enjoyed the film and hope to see it again in the near future.
Over all I give it a
Hackman, Cazale, Garr, & Ford, with Coppola directing? STILL relevant social commentary on surveillance and isolation connected to technology? Display of how paranoia (even when warranted) can utterly destroy a life?
Great film. If you get a chance, give it a chance.
Gene Hackman is another one of my favorite actors and he is brilliant in this edgy gem of a film.
(Full review TBD)
I hate to say it, but I found 'The Conversation' to be really quite boring. Your enjoyment of this movie will hinder on a number of things, but there's no doubt that it's a product of its time. In today's age, we've seen this story a hundred times, and we've seen it done much, much better. But it's not just the fact that it's dated, far from it. It's simply uninteresting for a large proportion of the time. You get a sense that Coppola attempted to give Hackman's character a backstory, but it just doesn't work - you don't care. It didn't do the film any favours that I watched Brian De Palma's infinitely more interesting and far better executed 'Blow Out' recently; which just highlights the problems with Coppola's movie in far greater detail. Whereas that film had an uneasiness - a constant tension - running throughout, and a main character you could get behind and sympathise with, this film never really picks up any momentum, because the story simply isn't executed very well. It has some merit, of course, and for 1974, the concept of wire-tapping and the consequences of technology were pretty big themes. However, its biggest sin was not being able to make an interesting concept into an interesting or entertaining movie.
Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation is a masterclass in brilliant directing. The cinematography is gorgeous and crafty. The acting is so real and subtle. The use of sound is actually genius. The music sets the tone. It's just very slow paced that holds back the excellent story and writing.
Around every corner is a beautiful shot. The scenes are set up so well with unique set pieces and wholly originally locales from empty hotel rooms to a surveillance device convention to a business executive's office. It's all fascinating to look at with every moment.
Gene Hackman delivers the most reserved and calm performance of his career as private investigator Harry Caul. You are constantly wondering what he is thinking. He is relatable in how human the character comes across as with every choice. He is cautious to the point of being paranoid, but he is also amiable around others if quiet. He loves jazz and listening to those around him. Hackman puts on a true display of complex acting with very little dialogue or movement. He's the perfect private investigator in The Conversation.
A young Harrison Ford delivers a highly believable and threatening performance like no other in his career. Another stand out is Hackman's assistant listener Stan played by the funny and quirky John Cazale. Allen Garfield's amazingly underhanded as the Hackman's rival investigator Bernie. Overall, the entire ensemble delivers excellent acting for their respective roles.
The Conversation can boast the most creative use of sound and voice recordings in any movie ever. The use of audio recordings and playback are played with by Coppola going in and out of conversations. Coppola utilizes the technology at his disposal for unique moments of listening in and spying on people. The subtle changes in volume and clarity are intentional and superbly executed. I am fascinated at how Coppola managed to pull of such a clever use of audio to enhance the movie watching experience. Audiences will be confused then enlightened in minutes as you solve the mystery along side Hackman's character.
The music is beautiful piano from composer David Shire. There are long passages of delight piano melodies to liven up the mood, then long stretches of disquieting silence. The suspense is palpable as loud rushes of piano rhythms will soar into hearing with haunting sounds that generate a worrisome atmosphere to The Conversation. The score is excellent and quite memorable too. It really contributes to the suspenseful vibe that The Conversation contains.
The writing and story is a tale of privacy, investigation, wiretapping, ethics, morality, and faith. Coppola's writing is realistic and quite deep. His topics still feel relevant and profound. He makes Hackman's Harry Caul character a man that must listen in and follow people, taping their lives, and risking their lives just for money. This wears heavy on Hackman's mind as he believes himself a man of faith. It is an intriguing take on ethical questions brought up during the course of an investigator's career. You will wonder whether bugging people is worth it too after watching The Conversation.
Gene Hackman is perfectly cast. Here, he is at the peak of his powers, able to project the protracted inner conflict raging within himself caused by the plot's dilemma.
No studio would make this film when Coppola presented the original script, so he financed production himself by starting his own studio (Zoetrope) entirely funded by agreeing to direct The Godfather part 2 in exchange for his Directing fee, millions of dollars, paid up front.
Hackman isn't the only great performance; Harrison Ford is excellent as Assistant to "The Director", slick and menacing. Cindy Williams (yes, THAT Cindy Williams) is also excellent as one of Harry's surveillance subjects.
The 70s were an amazing decade for cinema, throwing off the shackles of the Hayes Code and giving unprecedented fertile ground for innovative directors. The Conversation stands as one of the best examples of what a sharp young director could do.