The Conversation. An early and disturbing look at the Surveillance State

The Conversation is a most disturbing film. Shot in San Francisco in the mid 1970’s the film was awarded the top prize at Cannes.  The opening scene in Union Square is timeless.  It is available on Amazon Prime.

The New Yorker – Michael Sragow

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The writer-director Francis Ford Coppola took a suggestion from his fellow-filmmaker Irvin Kershner to check out the expanding world of electronic eavesdropping, and developed it into a near-triumph about a guilt-wracked bugging master named Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), who believes that he hears intimations of murder on his surveillance tapes. When it premièred, in 1974, the movie’s technological tricks and sleek corporate backdrop evoked Watergate. Thanks to Walter Murch’s keen, intuitive sound montage and Hackman’s clammy, subtle performance, the movie captures a more elusive and universal fear—that of losing the power to respond, emotionally and morally, to the evidence of one’s own senses. Bespectacled and balding, Hackman conveys a clumsy sensitivity that compensates for the wispiness of the script; he’s abetted by John Cazale, as Caul’s assistant; Allen Garfield, as Caul’s competitor; and Cindy Williams, Frederick Forrest, and Robert Duvall, as the trio involved in the homicide plot.

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