The Conversation won Francis Ford Coppola his first Palme d’Or when it premiered in 1974. It is both an intense thriller about the intrusion of technology on the private lives of everyday citizens and an intimate portrayal of a man plagued by guilt and paranoia.
Gene Hackman stars as Harry Caul, a surveillance expert who runs his own security firm and lives in virtual isolation to protect his privacy. When Harry is hired to record the conversations of a young couple by a client, he becomes convinced that his work may endanger the couple, and obsesses over the knowledge he has learned and what he can do about it.
A prescient exploration of how surveillance technology affects American life when it was made, during the Watergate scandal, and now, The Conversation is a critically acclaimed film that shows Coppola depart from the large scale of his previous works to create a visually sparse and intellectually layered thriller.
“This movie is a sadly observant character study, about a man who has removed himself from life, thinks he can observe it dispassionately at an electronic remove, and finds that all of his barriers are worthless. The cinematography (opening scene by Haskell Wexler, the rest by Bill Butler) is deliberately planned from a voyeuristic point of view; we are always looking but imperfectly seeing.” Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com
“[T]he work of a film maker at the height of his creativity. In contrast to the breadth of Coppola’s mob sagas, “The Conversation” is an intricate and unsettlingly subtle character study, with a very strong performance from Hackman.” Nick Hilditch, BBC
“The Conversation allowed Francis Ford Coppola to engage in a more personal style of storytelling, crafting a small-scale character study that’s steeped in minor-key melancholia, and giving free reign to his infatuation with international art-house cinema” Budd Wilkins, Slant Magazine