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59 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars George Orwell warned us....
Most of us know at least one person who can compartmentalize her or his life, separating business from pleasure, career from family, etc. Such people have exceptional focus and determination. Brilliantly portrayed by Gene Hackman, Harry Caul is such a person. (Even his girlfriend Amy, played by Teri Garr, does not know where he lives.) Harry is an expert technician who is...
Published on 26 Sep 2005 by Robert Morris

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Prophecy?
Francis Ford Coppolla's 1974 film The Conversation is interesting from the point of view that phone tapping and a world where nothing truly is private started back when the film was made and yet now in the 21st century it's taken for granted that we live in age of surveillance and secrecy.

Gene Hackman plays the main protagonist Harry Caul who lives a hermit...
Published on 10 Mar 2012 by Brawny Withed


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59 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars George Orwell warned us...., 26 Sep 2005
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Conversation [DVD] (DVD)
Most of us know at least one person who can compartmentalize her or his life, separating business from pleasure, career from family, etc. Such people have exceptional focus and determination. Brilliantly portrayed by Gene Hackman, Harry Caul is such a person. (Even his girlfriend Amy, played by Teri Garr, does not know where he lives.) Harry is an expert technician who is retained to conduct electronic surveillance of those identified by his clients. In effect, he is a high-tech private investigator. What he records becomes evidence of illegal, unethical, or immoral behavior. Harry has no personal interest in the private lives he invades surreptitiously. But then he accepts an assignment and begins to suspect that the subjects of his surveillance will be murdered. The "compartments" in his life which Harry has so carefully separated begin to merge (albeit gradually) and he begins to have second thoughts about how he earns a living. Of course, he is better qualified than any other character in the film to understand (if not yet fully appreciate) the implications of an invasion of privacy. Under Francis Ford Coppola's brilliant direction, Harry begins to feel paranoid.

I view The Conversation as a dark film because its raises so many questions which seem even more relevant today than they were in 1974. How secure can any life be? Who is accumulating personal as well as professional data about whom? Why? Satellites convey camneras thast can take photographs of a license plate. All of the data on computer hard drives can be recovered. DNA tests can determine whether or not a monarch was poisoned hundreds of years ago. In so many ways, "there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide" from modern technologies. What intrigues me most about Harry Caul is his growing sense of dislocation and vulnerability as the conflict between his personal conscience and professional objectivity intensifies. The assignment for The Director (Robert Duvall) to conduct surveillance on Ann (Cindy Williams) and Mark (Frederic Forest) serves as a trigger that activates self-doubts and insecurities which Harry has presumably suppressed and denied for many years.

For me, the final scene is most memorable because it's so ambiguous. To what extent has Harry invaded his own privacy? What has he learned? How will he now proceed with his personal life and career? For whatever reasons, only in recent years has this film received the praise it deserves but was denied when it first appeared almost 20 years ago. It seems to get even better each time it is seen again, especially in the DVD format which offers clearer image and sound as well as several excellent supplementary items such as commentaries by Coppola and his supervising editor Walter Murch as well as a "Close-Up on the Conversation" featurette.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coppola's finest - a masterful film of suspense and paranoia, 3 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Conversation [VHS] (VHS Tape)
'The Conversation' concerns Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a saxophone playing surveillance expert, who records a conversation between two people in a busy San Francisco square. It should have been a routine job for him but its contents haunt him and he gradually descends into paranoia.
The film appears to be a classic 70s thriller in the vein of 'The Parallax View' or 'The French Connection' but is, in many ways, more similar to European art films, particularly Antonioni's 'Blow Up'. It is a consideration of the morality of surveillance and a study of the crippling of a man overcome with guilt and fear.
The film deserves considerable re-viewing not only because of the elaborate growth of Coppola's screenplay but also to consider his sparse images of despair that constantly enforce the invasion of privacy. Gene Hackman delves so deeply into Harry's character that it is almost stifling while David Shire's score is constantly unsettling. Walter Murch provides the innovative sound design and also helps to create the film's atmosphere with his beautiful editing.
The film was the basis for the recent Tony Scott film 'Enemy of the State' and even features Gene Hackman as a Harry Caul like character but the Hollywood update pales in comparison with the original.
This is a considered, intelligent and crafted film and seems more personal than the other, more familiar Coppola classics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ......" I'm not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder "......, 8 Sep 2009
This review is from: The Conversation [DVD] (DVD)
The Conversation is about a private surveillance expert called Harry Caul (played by Gene Hackman) who gets personally involved in a case after being hired to record a conversation between two people. Caul begins to suspect that the couple may have murder in mind............

The film begins in a straightforward manner, but soon becomes a tricky state of affairs and delves deeply into Caul's personal psyche. This makes it a gripping character piece revolving around loneliness and paranoia; a familiar subject of 70's filmmaking. You only have to witness the likes of Taxi Driver and Serpico to recognise the value of such a theme and ironically, such themes are still important now as they were then.

With it's less than two hour running time, the film still demands patience as Coppola's European `art house' direction ensures a slow burning and absorbing thriller, where he deliberately pans from scene to scene to give that CCTV camera effect. There are also good cameos from a young Harrison Ford and it's nice to see the late John Cazale make another rare appearance.

Francis Ford Coppola directed The Conversation between the two Godfather movies and since he went on to make Apocalypse Now; it's obvious that he was at the height of his creativity. As usual we get a passionate and informative audio commentary from Coppola where he admits the complications surroundings the film and also dedicates his brave attempt at suspense to the Great Alfred Hitchcock. However such complications do reveal a handful of plot holes, but don't let that put you off - as ultimately the film is about personal interpretation and there are no right or wrong answers. At certain stages in the film, Caul is highly paranoid and deep into his own thoughts. Therefore some sequences may just be a figment of his imagination - even though, he personally thinks that they are real and not imagined. Nevertheless, such scenes still remain iconic despite the logic behind them.

The Conversation is yet another example why 70's film-making is more defiant and compelling than any other decade in cinema. Hackman's subtle performance and the horrific finale are enough to make this one of the greats. For sure Coppola is taking a break from his other epics by making this compact film, which seems more personal to him than his other colossal 70's masterpieces. Not as ambitious as Apocalypse now, definitely not as grand as any of the Godfather movies but somehow more complicated, yet simple at the same time.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow-burn genius, 25 Feb 2004
By 
Andy Millward (Tiptree, Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Conversation [DVD] (DVD)
Forget the fact that The Conversation didn't get the headlines or awards of the Godfather. No flashy razamatazz, just quality writing, directing and acting, not least the finest performance of a glittering career by Gene Hackman as the intensely private and paranoid sound recording expert Harry Caul, who uncovers a plot, but finds himself digging too deep and losing control. The subtlety of Hackman is evident from the spare dialogue - he says little, but expresses his character's thoughts and emotions as though you could read his mind.
This is an intense, smouldering character study with a brilliant twist, fully deserving its place in my personal top 10 films of all time. As with all the best films, it stands repeated watching to appreciate the hidden depths within its apparently simple architecture.
Furthermore, at this price it is an absolute bargain. Buy and enjoy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex and challenging, 12 Feb 2010
By 
William Cohen (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Conversation [DVD] (DVD)
It's amazing how successful films about loners can be: Taxi Driver, The Wrestler, The Conversation. This film gets inside a lonely man and dissects his problems with life. He's trying to make a living and keep out of trouble, but that's not enough, it doesn't work. As Coppola admits, he only got to make this film because he was so successful with The Godfather. It's art house, but very clever and intricate, posing questions about sanity, responsibility, religion, love and loneliness. Gene Hackman is beguiling. I was impressed by how far Coppola took the idea.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All ears, 19 Feb 2004
By 
A. Skudder (Crawley, West Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Conversation [DVD] (DVD)
This film really shows the difference between today's films and those of the 70s, perhaps more than any other. I am sure that modern audiences will find it quite slow compared to more recent output. In some cases you can compare modern and what is now classic styles directly by comparing remakes to the original (Point Blank & Payback, The Thomas Crown Affair, etc.) In this case you could compare The Conversation to the film Enemy Of The State, where Gene Hackman plays a character obviously based on a development of Harry Caul. While Enemy Of The State was entertaining enough, it was not as rewarding as The Conversation.
Of course, one usually has to work for a reward, and modern audiences might find this to be hard work, because the story is allowed to develop at its own pace and the viewer has to work harder to make out what Harry's motivations are - there is mention of the incident on the East coast and enough information for an intelligent person to know the crisis of conscience which Harry is experiencing, without the director having to force it down his throat. You just know that a remake would have a flashback inserted intrusively with a vivid portrayal of the mob accountant and his family being killed, probably with a reaction shot of a young Harry Caul, and possibly even with a voiceover in case somebody might have missed the significance. As it is, we have Gene Hackman's superb (as always) acting to guide us.
The story is basically that a specialist in eavesdropping and surveillance is hired for a job and begins to suspect the motives of the person who hired him, after hearing the contents of the conversation he has recorded. Underneath that is the portrayal of an obsessive paranoid who eventually succumbs to his paranoia when he finds it quite justified.
It is worth taking the time to watch this film, and the documentary included as an extra - a rare treat on a film of this age - just to enjoy seeing a director and actor on top form letting a story develop at its own pace. And also to see a young Harrison Ford in what must be one his least sympathetic roles.
There is just one thing... you have to curse the integrity of Coppola in not feeling the need to have Harry explain how he managed to bug the fishing boat, because I for one would love to know how he did it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cautionary tale, 16 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Conversation [DVD] (DVD)
Gene Hackman at his best in the era of film-making when films were not only stylish they were thoughtful and well written.
great performance from the late John Cazale. Nobody could ever accuse Coppola of being overated
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nightmares And A Guilty Conscience, 24 Jun 2013
By 
prisrob "pris," (New England USA) - See all my reviews
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Gene Hackman has long been an actor I admire. In this 1974 film written and directed by Francis Fird Coppola, he rises to the level of greatness.

Harry, played by Gene Hackman works in the surveillance industry and isvsaid to be the best at his kind of job. however, on one jb a woman and little girl were killed after one of his jobs, and he tried to distance himself by saying he was in no way responsible. Harry is a clever man, very quiet and a loner. in fact his girlfriend, Teri Garr, before a nose job, did not know whete he lived or what he did for work. he has a new job andis afraid that several people will be killed. This is all he can think f, it follows him, and in the end, we wonder if it will destroy him.

Lots of actors you will recognize, a very young Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams and several others. This is A film with a lot of tension, black and white. It tells the tale of how relying upon technology may be a fool's errand. Nightmares and a guilty conscience follow Harry. Will he survive?

Highly Recommended. prisrob 06-23-13
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quiet masterpiece, 28 July 2006
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Conversation [DVD] (DVD)
The Conversation is a quiet masterpiece, a great character piece that has been clearly thought through but never at the expense of the credibility of its central voyeur (Hackman even wears the peeping Tom's standard uniform of trenchcoat and prescription glasses). It's a glorious mixture of underplayed conspiracy, coincidence, paranoia and interpretation, reinterpretation and misinterpretation that marries form and content with a quiet assurance: at times the camerawork literally mimics automated surveillance cameras as the `best bugger on the West Coast' (a phrase that is open to serious misinterpretation in San Francisco) starts to unravel over the possible consequences of his actions.

The DVD extras aren't plentiful, but more than make up for it in quality.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Prophecy?, 10 Mar 2012
By 
Brawny Withed (Leeds, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Francis Ford Coppolla's 1974 film The Conversation is interesting from the point of view that phone tapping and a world where nothing truly is private started back when the film was made and yet now in the 21st century it's taken for granted that we live in age of surveillance and secrecy.

Gene Hackman plays the main protagonist Harry Caul who lives a hermit like existence free from social interaction which gives him an advantage to his occupation which is in freelance surveillance.

The plot centre's around a single conversation between a man and woman which Caul has been hired to record and deliver the tapes to 'The Director' (Robert Duvall) via his sinister aide Martin Stett played by a very young Harrison Ford.

The Conversation is a film of it's time but still a good piece of cinema and one of Gene Hackman's best performances in my opinion.
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The Conversation [Blu-ray] [1974]
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