1974 | Drama | English | 113 minutes
Harry Caul, the owner of a surveillance company, and his assistant Stan, are hired by a person referred to as The Director, to bug the conversation of a couple, Ann and Mark, as they walk around Union Square in San Francisco. Harry isconsumed with guilt as the last surveillance job he did resulted in the death of three people. After days of surveillance, Harry produces a set of tapes that are crystal clear but rather ambiguous. Harry is paranoid and is worried what will happen to the couple when The Director hears the tapes. Harry is particularly concerned after he hears Ann say to Mark, “He’ll kill us if he got the chance.” Because of these fears, Harry refuses to hand over the tapes. The tapes are eventually stolen and are in the hands of The Director. In a relentless and feverish turn of events, Harry finds out that Ann is The Director’s wife and apparently having an affair with Mark. What will be Ann’s fate? Watch and find out!
Gene Hackman (Harry Caul) / John Cazale (Stan) / Cindy Williams (Ann) / Frederic Forrest (Mark) / Robert Duvall (The Director)
Why Stream This Film?
The Conversation had the misfortune of opening the same year as The Godfather Part II (also directed by Francis Ford Coppola). In any other year, it probably would have won every major award at the Oscars. It’s an American mystery thriller questioning a moral dilemma: can the private surveillance of people ever be justified? It’s currently regarded as a cult classic.
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 98% 98%
- Metacritic Score 85% 85%
Cannes International Film Festival: Winner, the Grand Prix (top prize)
Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Picture; Best Original Screenplay (Francis Ford Coppola); Best Sound (Walter Murch and Art Rochester)
National Board of Review: Best Film; Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola); Best Actor (Gene Hackman)
National Society of Film Critics: Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola)
It was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
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The movie is a thriller with a shocking twist at the end, but it is also a character study. Hackman plays a craftsman who has perfected his skill at the expense of all other human qualities. THE CONVERSATION is about paranoia, invasion of privacy, bugging—and also about the bothersome problem of conscience.
One of Coppola’s very best. Gene Hackman is superb as Harry Caul, a painfully lonely, cynical, paranoid and alienated man whose work has driven him to guard his own privacy zealously, although there is precious little to protect.
Gene Hackman finds bittersweet poignancy in solitary surveillance expert Harry Caul. Groundbreaking sound design by Walter Murch and the know-how of advisor Hal Lipset (who examined the notorious gap in Nixon’s White House tapes) enhance the realism; compelling dialogue and Hackman’s finely portrayed internal struggle give it the fascination of a recurring dream.
A major artistic asset to the film—besides the script, direction and the top performances—is supervising editor Walter Murch’s sound collage and re-recordings. Voices come in and out of aural focus in a superb tease.
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