The Conversation

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An inner rather than outer-directed film about the threat of electronic surveillance, conceived well before the Watergate affair broke. Acknowledged as the king of the buggers, Hackman'ssurveillance expert is an intensely private man. Living alone in a scrupulously anonymous flat, paying functional visits to a mistress who plays no other part in his life, he is himself a machine; and the point Coppola makes is that this very private man only acquires something to be private about through the exercise of his skill as a voyeur. Projecting his own lonely isolation on to a conversation he painstakingly pieces together (mesmerising stuff as he obsessively plays the tapes over and over, adjusting sound levels until words begin to emerge from the crowd noises), he begins to imagine a story of terror and impending tragedy, and feels impelled to try to circumvent it. In a splendidly Hitchcockian denouement, a tragedy duly takes place, but not the one he foresaw; and he is left shattered not only by the realisation that his soul has been exposed, but by the conviction that someone must have planted a bug on him which he simply cannot find. A bleak and devastatingly brilliant film.

Release details

Duration: 113 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Francis Coppola
Screenwriter: Francis Coppola
Cast: Gene Hackman
John Cazale
Cindy Williams
Allen Garfield
Frederic Forrest
Teri Garr
Robert Duvall
Harrison Ford

Average User Rating

5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Ian Girvan

One of the best films of our time. Better, I think, than either of the Godfathers. To be ranked alongside The Third Man, Katyn and The Lives of Others.

Ian Girvan

One of the best films of our time. Better, I think, than either of the Godfathers. To be ranked alongside The Third Man, Katyn and The Lives of Others.