Saturday, December 10, 2011


We've Met Before, Haven't We?
On the sixteenth Lynchian day of Christmas, we present Francis Ford Coppola's thoughtful thriller-character study hybrid The Conversation (1974). Shot during the Christmas season in the mild climate of San Francisco, The Conversation is the most Hitchcockian and Lynchian film in Coppola's body of work. The film centers on Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a professional eavesdropper who wrestles with guilt and paranoia because of his morally dubious line of work. Caul becomes caught in a lurid web of deceit and guilt, unsure of his employer's motivations when asked to record the conversations of a young couple.
Harrison Ford in an Early Supporting Role
Our previously discussed film Enemy of the State (1998) would later pay homage to The Conversation (1974), mimicking themes and sequences from the film, and even lifting shots from the earlier film to be used as Gene Hackman's  N.S.A. identification card. However, unlike Enemy of the State, Coppola's The Conversation shares a more distinctly Lynchian tone and style in addition to the Lynchian plot. Unusual for a thriller, the film features many abstract sequences, including a scene where Harry Caul carries on a prolonged imaginary conversation with a woman whom his surveillance recordings might have inadvertently helped condemn to death.
To this Day, Gene Hackman Maintains Harry Caul is His Best Performance
Coppola later explained The Conversation is his most personal film, intrigued by the ethical quandaries of eavesdropping and fascinated by the technological advancements that can make one's privacy obsolete. The Conversation is not an easy viewing experience, forcing us to get under Harry Caul's lonely and obsessive skin. The film is complex, morose, and disturbing in thought-provoking ways reminiscent of Lynch's Eraserhead (1977). The Conversation's ambiguity is unsettling, making it a film that will stick with you long after you finish watching it. Some critics hypothesize The Conversation could have earned the Best Picture Award at the Oscars had it not been eclipsed by Coppola's other film that year which ultimately won: The Godfather: Part II (1974).

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