The Conversation

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola. 1974. Starring: Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, John Cazale. English. Suspense/Thriller
The Conversation

Though Francis Ford Coppola is best known as director of bona fide American classics such as the Godfather and Apocalypse Now, The Conversation may be his purest offering of artistic expression. And though not autobiographical, the film is certainly personal and undeniably haunting.

Gene Hackman stars as Harry Caul, a lonely surveillance expert hired by a mysterious agency to record a seemingly benign conversation between a young couple. Though Caul is meant to remain unattached and unconcerned with the contents of the conversation, he soon finds himself becoming personally involved, fearing for the safety of the couple and the possibility that he may unwittingly play a role in their demise.

As writer-director of The Conversation, Coppola was one of the first filmmakers to successfully adopt and Americanize the French Auteur style of cinematic creation. However, his main source of inspiration here is the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Specifically, there are definite similarities between this film and Hitchcock’s Vertigo, both of which share unsettling themes of obsession, paranoia, as well as a San Francisco setting. However, where Hitchcock portrays San Francisco as a seductive, albeit dangerous city of intrigue and mystique, this film highlights a seedier city by the bay; a town of anonymous warehouses, solidarity and loneliness.

Perhaps Coppola’s greatest achievement here is his ability to sketch a painfully honest, compelling character study within the framework of a suspense thriller. The story successfully avoids any and all conventions and clichés associated with the genre, opting instead to affect the viewer with mood, suggestion and the horror of the unseen.


The Conversation was nominated for 3 Oscars:  Best Picture, Best Sound, and Best Original Screenplay.

Posted by:
Mar 3, 2008 2:44pm
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