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The Conversation (Widescreen)

Gene Hackman , John Cazale , Francis Ford Coppola    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 30.42
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Bleak and mysterious, Francis Ford Coppola's taut masterpiece about responsibility, privacy, alienation, and paranoia is part Hitchcockian thriller, part grim character study. Hackman plays Harry Caul, a guarded wreck of a human being whose profession as the world's greatest surveillance expert has detached him from everyday reality. Though a topnotch voyeur, amorally earning his living by bugging other people's conversations and selling the tapes to clients, Caul keeps his own life fiercely private. He has no friends, just associates in the wiretapping business, all of whom he distrusts; his love life consists of apathetic sex with what could be any woman; his apartment contains three locks but few possessions. His indifference to life extends to his attitude about his job: though he's a wiretapping genius, he accepts no responsibility for what harm his work might produce--it's merely work... until now.

While on his latest assignment, Caul breaks his own code and becomes immersed in the latest conversation he's taped. While piecing together fragments of a lunchtime conversation (Coppola dazzles us with his repeated fetish for technology here), something stirs Caul and he begins projecting his own misery onto the discussion. He finally discerns that some evil plot may occur because of his work and is forced into the moral dilemma of whether to turn in the tapes.

Ultimately, Coppola's cynical, complex script doesn't just condemn Caul for his foolish discovery of his own conscience; it shatters him into a million pieces, during an unforgettable final image. Allusions to Watergate are impossible to ignore, and the movie is still one of the most devastating, important films in '70s American cinema. --Dave McCoy

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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A CHAMBER-MUSIC MASTERPIECE March 28 2004
Reading over the reviews here of this remarkable movie, I'd say most of its virtues have been well covered, and what's behind most of the bad reviews uncovered: people who don't get this movie are ones who need the usual thriller or Godfather stuff, which this film doesn't provide. It's small-scale, enormously subtle in story and acting, and its originality is as subtle as the rest of it. Among the trio of friends who came up together--Spielberg and Lucas the others--I think Coppola was the only real grownup, and the most ambitious to say something truly serious, though he also had the grand visual flair of the other two. The Conversation is at the heart of his work. If I had to compare it to anything, it'd be the Melville story "Benito Cereno," in which we think we know what's going on but we don't, not at all. Other reviewers mention the "philosophical" aspect. For me, here's what that's about: With the most sophisticated technology available, professional bugger Harry Caul finds out what two people said. But what he doesn't understand is the _meaning_ of what they said, and the meaning is what makes the difference. The way Coppla reveals that, with a little trick of sound, is for all its quietness one of the most brilliant and hair-raising moments I know in film. It's a parable of technology, of the meaning of truth, of the nature of preconceptions (who we expect to be the bad guys aren't) and lots else--the philosophically inclined can take their pick. In my own list of greatest movies of all time, this is somewhere in the first five. If you don't need exploding fireballs in your thrillers and know great acting and directing when you see it, this movie is as good as it gets.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars your opinion might change...after some time April 12 2000
Previously (about 2 1/2 years ago), I gave this film a poor rating. What makes a film good or bad? I was very disappointed with the ending, as it wasn't what I had expected. Over the years, I haven't been able to forget the film, which in my book is sound criteria for a successful story, be it either a movie or book. I find myself regularly revisiting the film and thinking about it, which has led me to revisit and revise this review.
When you watch the film, do a little more than just view it. Think deeply about the characters and how they feel. You just might want to watch it again to drink it all in.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Commentaries Embellish This DVD July 4 2004
This is an excellent piece of filmaking. Very, very underated to date although many of the Amazon posts catch this piece of story telling. Like the parallel editing sequence that MADE the end of Godfather 1, really kill (pardon the pun) at least according to Robert Evans (The Kid Stays in the Picture)-it is interesting to note that this particular new editor of "The Conversation"-contributed alot of great ideas to the story as well as working on the sound mixing. FFC was off working on Godfather II, so perhaps the Editor has a little more freedom and time to work his magic. Funny-most of the workers of the young studio were non-union so he could not even be credited as a picture or sound Editor. Famous Director of Photography Haskell Wexler was "let go" by Francis very early on and replaced. This action gave the film a superior look, for the theme of the film. You have to love the retro vibe of all that electronic tape gear in the digital age we now live. The visual look is crisp and stunning. If you view this DVD-watch BOTH commentaries. The haunting piano melody over the DVD Menu and that appears throughout the story-is worth appreciation alone. I actually sat down and counted out both sets of machine gun triplets in what is a rather dreamy piece of solo piano. As many have said already-this belongs in your DVD library. And let's not forget the early work here of Harrison Ford-complete with scar on his chin; Cindy Williams; Robert Duvall and Teri Garr. Enjoy and relish. People ARE watching and listening. Even Gene Hackman's sax has "ears."
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5.0 out of 5 stars This movie goes like a classical music piece. Dec 14 2003
This movie is a sheer and distinct case study.
The case is, the lonesome by choice and by profession, anti-hero Harry Caul, a private surveillance expert and his own paranoid very blocked world.
The title refers to the task he has been assigned to, to record a conversation between two people in a crowded square during a lunch time break. He succeeded in his mission at first, but when he tried to live inside his task, he failed in his life.
I recommend you; do not criticize this deliberately slow going movie while it is running.
This movie moves like flowing molasses. It reveals its own layers and secrets with each going moment, get assured that you will be completely satisfied when it ends.
Consider how close the director succeeded in creating the sense of the overwhelming paranoia, at first you get skeptic, asking if Caul is overacting in his cautious way of life, then you get yourself skeptic too, imagining the number of conspirators surrounding him and may have roles in the crime.
The movie depends on the understanding of the screenplay by its creators.
The theme concentrates on longing to, retrieving, and then consequently the losing of believes; in love, personal capabilities and maybe in religious believes.
Look for the motive that began all this conflicts. It is the search for love.
The love he observed between the two young people of his surveillance task.
The love that moved him backward towards his past, in feeling the guilt towards the victims of his previous tasks,
And forward towards his search for love and meaning.
This motive that reminded him of the necessity being human, of asking questions about nature if his job.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars stupide histoire
Encore une fois j'ai choisi un mauvais film, cet acteur qui produit d'excellent film , celui là était son plus pire je n'ai pas aimer ce film. Read more
Published on Dec 23 2011 by Roger Brideau
2.0 out of 5 stars Good But INTENSELY Depressing!!
Ok it's art right and as such it has many technical merits. Gene Hackman is good and the plot has twists and turns and does keep you wanting to find out all the way to the end. Read more
Published on June 23 2009 by Neil Olsen
5.0 out of 5 stars One gem: one lady between two giants
A Cannes' winner among other virtues, this film is like the fourth symphony of Beethoven: a princess between two power muscle men. Read more
Published on May 7 2004 by Hiram Gomez Pardo
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding work!
In between Godfather films, Francis Ford Coppola made this masterpiece. There are many actors that would go on to bigger and better things. Read more
Published on April 11 2004 by smoothjazzandmore
2.0 out of 5 stars "I'm not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder."
Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" will not be confused with any of his "Godfather" films. This film is not epic in scope. Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2004 by Steven Y.
4.0 out of 5 stars the biter bit
Harry Caul is a geek.
Harry Caul goes insane because he has no connection with humanity.
Coppola and Hackman compel you to watch his disintegration. Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2004 by A Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Listen up! Get this film... (4.5 stars)
I echo other comments that this is perhaps Coppola's best film in its characterization, simmering plot development, and pace, all carefully crafted to offer a unique vision of the... Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2003 by halda
You have seen "Who-Dun-Its." This is more like a riveting "Who-Will-Do-It."

What a passionate movie about a surveillance man, who by profession records conversations for... Read more
Published on Nov. 4 2003 by Shashank Tripathi
2.0 out of 5 stars Great acting, confusing and annoying plot.
I agree with the reviewer from Maryland. The movie was confusing, lacked suspense, and got very irritating. Read more
Published on Oct. 26 2003 by Nick Bobraton
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. Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2003 by Robert Morris
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