The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 masterpiece of societal paranoia in the guise of a techno thriller, comes to Sag Harbor Cinema in a new 35mm print personally supervised by Coppola himself. The writer/director, who always counted The Conversation as his most personal film says: “I’m happy the movie became the very thing it was about — invasion of privacy and its erosive impact on both victims and perpetrators. This was my goal when I conceived it over 40 years ago, and to my surprise, the idea still resonates today.”
Lonely wiretapping expert and devout Catholic Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is hired to record a seemingly innocuous conversation in San Francisco’s Union Square between two lovers. Upon re-hearing the tapes, however, Caul believes he may be putting the couple in danger if he turns the material over to his client (Robert Duvall). But what one hears can ultimately turn out to be quite different from what was actually recorded.
A smaller, more intimate film that was in the works before Coppola found commercial success with The Godfather, The Conversation turned out to be prescient, as its release coincided with the Watergate scandal. Today, the film about surveillance; miscommunication; and the importance of recorded sound seems just as contemporary and meaningful.
Kenneth Turan, in a review of the newly restored version, summarizes its poignancy, “[T]he heart of ‘The Conversation’s’ appeal, then and now, is the way it combines an exceptional character study, a thriller plot and an ability to superbly convey the unease of a society where blanket surveillance is getting to be the norm.”
Drawing part of his inspiration from Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up and Herman Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf, as well as John Cassavettes’ use of sound Coppola centers the film on Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) a lonely, devoutely catholic wiretapper that gets caught in the complex plot he is supposed to investigate. Occasionally credited as the “co-creator” of the film, Walter Murch’s brought sheer brilliance to the sound and editing of the film.
Winner of the 1974 Palme d’Or at Cannes and nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture (losing out to Coppola’s own The Godfather: Part II ), The Conversation features a cast of future stars, including John Cazale, Harrison Ford, Teri Garr, Frederick Forsythe, and Cindy Williams. The minimalist piano music by David Shire is considered one of the great film scores of the era.
Tickets available at sagharborcinema.org