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The Conversation

May 19, 2013

by John Farr

John Farr discusses Francis Ford Coppola’s provoking mystery-thriller starring Gene Hackman.


The Conversation (1974)

What It’s About: Detached and distrustful of others, surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a deeply private, virtually friendless man whose life is consumed by his special brand of freelance intelligence work. Hired by corporate director Martin Stett (a young Harrison Ford) to monitor the conversation of a young couple (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest), Caul is troubled by the fragments of talk he illicitly captures on tape and begins obsessively piecing them together, suspecting a murder is in the works.

Why I Love It:
Made before he began work on “The Godfather, Part II,” Francis Ford Coppola’s prescient, haunting drama is a brilliant character study that plays out in an atmosphere of intense paranoia. Hackman is the dark heart of the film, playing a profoundly solitary man tortured by guilt, complicity, and his own inability to trust anyone, including girlfriend Amy (Teri Garr). Perhaps Coppola’s most artful film, “The Conversation” is dark, brooding, mysterious, and ultimately, completely unnerving.

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