Harry Caul is a devout Catholic and a lover of jazz music who plays his saxophone while listening to his jazz records. He is a San Francisco-based electronic surveillance expert who owns and operates his own small surveillance business. He is renowned within the profession as being the best, one who designs and constructs his own surveillance equipment. He is an intensely private and solitary man in both his personal and professional life, which especially irks Stan, his business associate who often feels shut out of what is happening with their work. This privacy, which includes not letting anyone into his apartment and always telephoning his clients from pay phones is, in part, intended to control what happens around him. His and Stan's latest job (a difficult one) is to record the private discussion of a young couple meeting in crowded and noisy Union Square. The arrangement with his client, known only to him as "the director", is to provide the audio recording of the discussion ...Written by
The references to the Teamsters and Caul's previous work for "the Attorney General" allude to Bobby Kennedy's investigations of Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters. See more »
Presumably, the "conversation" was recorded over the noon hour. In the opening shot, the shadows are much too long for mid-day, even in winter. See more »
Well, I want to go over to my place and start, you know, getting it on...
Oh, that's terrible.
Yeah. Do you ever, uh... ballet?
Be thankful. Do you have a quarter for them?
Yes, I do.
[gives it to street band]
What about me?
A lot of fun you are. You're supposed to tease me, give hints, make me guess, you know.
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Harry Caul: `I'm not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder.'
Two weeks ago I wrote a review of `The Silence of the Lambs' I said I thought that it was one of the greatest suspense films of all time. Well Francis Ford Coppola's ingenious and frightening film isn't one of the best suspense films of all time; it simply is the greatest suspense film of all time. It follows professional ease dropper Harry Caul's job on a conversation that goes way beyond anything that he ever could expect. This film is truly something else in its own right. Coppola is such a master, such a brilliant mind. This film is him at his best, after `The Godfather' and before part two. He makes this film so brilliantly and so knowing of what emotions the audience will feel, every pause and every silence is direct and timed. The film is completely intentional. It is constructed off of films like Michelangelo Antonioni's `Blow-up' or most Hitchcock films. Coppola takes these aspects brought by most of the great filmmakers and takes them to a whole new level of personal texture. He puts so much more into it. Making him (I can't say this enough) one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and most misunderstood. His films are like pie, they look good, they taste good, heck they even smell good, but you never really know what they are made of. All his films are deeper then they seem, it takes a true (TRUE!) film lover to respect what influences the man has made. Look at it like this, the greatest Hollywood film of all time, `The Godfather,' the greatest War film of all time `Apocalypse Now,' The greatest Sequel of all time `The Godfather Part II,' and the greatest Independent/Suspense film of all time `The Conversation.' What else is there to conquer? Science Fiction? His next film `Megalopolis' will tackle that void. Who cares about his slips, he has made some of the greatest films of all time.
In this film his talent is at its best with an involving, brilliantly executed screenplay and flawless direction. He makes cookies into Danish, if any other man ever made this film it would be good no doubt, but the greatest suspense film of all time? I think not. Harry Caul's (Hackman) character is so deep and so magnified. He is such a character's character; this film is a pure and simple character study. Not to mention the flawless cinematography and music. The little jazz piano riff fits the film perfectly and the cinematography is so mechanical like a piece of surveillance equipment. The dialogue in the first few minutes is so perfectly written it makes the viewer cringe wanting to know what it is the couple is saying so when we find out it is more of a gift. The conversation that the film is based on is set up so well all threw out the film, the more we hear the more we think, it is repetition at its perfection. The repetition is a true part of the film, the more the viewer hears something they ask themselves why am I hearing this again, what does it mean? Then the conversation tears at the viewer until they fall apart, just like Harry. The viewer understands his motivations, they see his reasons. We are set up and moved around this maze of murder and mayhem, we are Harry (J). This is just one of many brilliant aspects of the film. It never dives down or falls off it always stays paranoid like the main character. `The Conversation' is a haunting and well constructed masterpiece that molds great acting with brilliant storytelling. This is what films in this day and age should try to do. But they won't, they never will, and `The Conversation' will hold its ground as the most thoughtful and suspenseful film of all time.
Mark: He'd kill us if he got the chance.
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