149 of 154 people found the following review helpful
George Orwell warned us....,
This review is from: The Conversation (DVD)Most of us know at least one person who can compartmentalize her or his life, separating business from pleasure, career from family, etc. Such people have exceptional focus and determination. Brilliantly portrayed by Gene Hackman, Harry Caul is such a person. (Even his girlfriend Amy, played by Teri Garr, does not know where he lives.) Harry is an expert technician who is retained to conduct electronic surveillance of those identified by his clients. In effect, he is a high-tech private investigator. What he records becomes evidence of illegal, unethical, or immoral behavior. Harry has no personal interest in the private lives he invades surreptitiously. But then he accepts an assignment and begins to suspect that the subjects of his surveillance will be murdered. The "compartments" in his life which Harry has so carefully separated begin to merge (albeit gradually) and he begins to have second thoughts about how he earns a living. Of course, he is better qualified than any other character in the film to understand (if not yet fully appreciate) the implications of an invasion of privacy. Under Francis Ford Coppola's brilliant direction, Harry begins to feel paranoid.
I view The Conversation as a dark film because its raises so many questions which seem even more relevant today than they were in 1974. How secure can any life be? Who is accumulating personal as well as professional data about whom? Why? Satellites can take photographs of a license plate. All of the data on computer hard drives can be recovered. DNA tests can determine whether or not a monarch was poisoned hundreds of years ago. In so many ways, "there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide" from modern technologies. What intrigues me most about Harry Caul is his growing sense of dislocation and vulnerability as the conflict between his personal conscience and professional objectivity intensifies. The assignment for The Director (Robert Duvall) to conduct surveillance on Ann (Cindy Williams) and Mark (Frederic Forest) serves as a trigger which activates self-doubts and insecurities which Harry has presumably suppressed and denied for many years.
For me, the final scene is most memorable because it's so ambiguous. To what extent has Harry invaded his own privacy? What has he learned? How will he now proceed with his personal life and career? For whatever reasons, only in recent years has this film received the praise it deserved but was denied when it first appeared almost 20 years ago. It seems to get even better each time it is seen again, especially in the DVD format which offers clearer image and sound as well as several excellent supplementary items such as commentaries by Coppola and his supervising editor Walter Murch as well as a "Close-Up on the Conversation" featurette.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 24, 2012 1:05:05 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 24, 2012 1:05:50 AM PDT
The Inquisitor says:
This is a great movie and a great review. Prime time Francis Ford Coppola & Gene Hackman. The true interesting thing about this film is the depth of what Harry Caul goes through. Everyone else is sort of just living their lives but Harry cant overcome this conversation. This review does a great job of explaining this battle he experiences in the film.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 24, 2012 3:56:44 AM PDT
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I own a DVD of this film and recently watched it again, then read Camus' The Stranger. (I wonder if Coppola has.) If anything, this film seems more relevant now (at least to me) than it did when it first appeared. Caul seems content only while playing along with recorded classic jazz performances, alone in a home that no one else knows about, including his girlfriend...and those of us watching the film. His only "conversation" (worthy of the name) is with himself.
Posted on Nov 25, 2012 9:21:34 PM PST
He hasn't really successfully compartmentalized it all. Instead he's unwilling to divulge even the most trivial information about himself. His only real friends are co-workers. He decides to hold a party at his office, with confidential information, then leaves his tape playing while he has sex.
Posted on Jun 23, 2013 2:43:20 PM PDT
Mark D. Burgh says:
His girlfriend is not Teri Garr, but the actress who played Lou An Poovey on Gomer Pyle.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2013 2:52:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 24, 2013 6:25:19 AM PDT
"Caul is a secretive, almost paranoid individual. He alienates his assistant, Stan (John Cazale), because he won't teach him more about audio surveillance, and his girlfriend, Amy (Teri Garr), because he won't share with her details about his career or personal life."
Lou-Ann Poovie was played by Elizabeth MacRae.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2013 4:15:23 PM PDT
Teri Garr is identified as the girlfriend, Amy in the closing credits and in te iMDB.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2013 4:39:34 PM PDT
Thank you for reconfirming.
It is a great film. For me, right up there with Inside Moves and Thief.
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