Favourite Movie: The Conversation (1974)
Starring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Frederic Forrest, Cindy Williams and Robert Duvall
First Saw It: Probably with a girlfriend in my early 20s at a Sydney cinema on Pitt Street.
Plot: Director Francis Ford Coppola’s film is about an obsessive surveillance expert played by Gene Hackman who crosses the line and becomes involved with a case he is bugging and finds himself entangled in murder and high-level power plays.
Richard Says: I’ve seen this film about four times. I love anything by Coppola. I think Gene Hackman’s performance is great. I loved him in The French Connection (1971) too.
He has a stillness about him and his appearance, yet there’s a masterly-ness behind that stillness. He’s a still actor yet beneath that there is something trying to get out. When Gene Hackman becomes that character – he is that character. He was a loner, a lone bugger. It’s exquisite, it has really good direction such as the scene where he discovers the hidden conversation on the tape deck.
You can spot Harrison Ford in it as a go-between. And that line in the film: “He’ll kill us if he had a chance” it means something different each time. It becomes abstract as it’s a film about language and dialogue. It shows that Coppola is making a movie… At the end Hackman tore up his house trying to find the bug – the bugger got bugged – and found he was happier left to play the saxophone… he found something better than trying to bug people.
I also like Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup (1966) which is just as abstract, its similar to The Conversation except it uses photographs and not sound. They blow up the images until they are nothing.
I think this is the secret of life, being able to read two opposing ideas, opinions or points of view simultaneously in terms of metaphor…
I saw Coppola at a full house screening in Sydney of Apocalypse Now… He came down four or five times to adjust the sound while it was running: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”!