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The Conversation (1974)

A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple, on whom he is spying, will be murdered.
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Gene Hackman ... Harry Caul
John Cazale ... Stan
Allen Garfield ... Bernie Moran
Frederic Forrest ... Mark
Cindy Williams ... Ann
Michael Higgins ... Paul
Elizabeth MacRae ... Meredith (as Elizabeth Mac Rae)
Teri Garr ... Amy
Harrison Ford ... Martin Stett
Mark Wheeler ... Receptionist
Robert Shields Robert Shields ... The Mime
Phoebe Alexander Phoebe Alexander ... Lurleen
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Storyline

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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Harry Caul will go anywhere to bug a private conversation. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

June 1974 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

La conversación See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,600,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$4,420,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono | Dolby Digital (restored version)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The meaning of Harry's last name, Caul, is a fetal membrane sometimes present at birth. This ties in strongly with both Harry's transparent rain jacket, which he wears for the majority of the film, and also the fact that Harry is occasionally viewed through a translucent sheet of plastic when threatened, such as by his rival during the party scene. See more »

Goofs

At the party in Caul's workshop, Stan describes the targets of a job only as "two people". At that time, Caul was at the far side of the shop, leafing through photos of them, many yards away - and obscured by fellow attendees and equipment - from a woman in the group who later asks, "What did they do...the boy and the girl?" Even had she been able to see the photos, there was no way she could have connected them with the subjects, no way she could have known their gender nor age. (She may however, knew about the job and merely slipped her tongue.) See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Passerby: Well, I want to go over to my place and start, you know, getting it on...
Ann: Oh, that's terrible.
Mark: Yeah. Do you ever, uh... ballet?
Ann: Be thankful. Do you have a quarter for them?
Mark: Yes, I do.
Ann: [gives it to street band]
Ann: What about me?
Mark: You'll see.
Ann: A lot of fun you are. You're supposed to tease me, give hints, make me guess, you know.
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Connections

Featured in Words (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

To Each His Own
(1946)
Music by Jay Livingston
Lyrics by Ray Evans
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Intelligent and ingenious thriller with magnificent acting by Gene Hackman and perfect direction by Coppola
25 February 2014 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert called Harry Caul (reportedly Gene Hackman's favorite movie in which he has acted) will go anywhere to bug a private conversation , as he is becoming increasingly uneasy about his current job . He is a solitary man in both his personal and professional life, only helped by his assistant Stan (early deceased John Cazale of Deer Hunter) , as they are watching a young couple (Cindy Williams , Frederic Forrest , Coppola's fetish actor) when Harry begins to suspect that they are murder targets . The professional eavesdropper haunted by the time his bugging cost the lives of some people and terrified that it is happening again , as he has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered . As Harry refines and re-refines the recording, he interprets what he hears in different ways . As Harry discovers shattering revelation believes that the lives of the young couple are in jeopardy .

This interesting flick turns out to be a powerful statement about privacy , guilty and responsibility ; being ¨surveillance¨ as the basis and theme of the film . The picture contains thrills , emotion , thought-provoking issues and plot twists during the last reel . Very good acting by Gene Hackman as a freelance surveillance expert as well as an intensely private and solitary mature man . His mood of isolation and loneliness is pretty well established . The ¨Tapper¨ Gene Hackman learned to play the saxophone especially for the film . Gene Hackman later plays a former NSA agent who is a surveillance expert in ¨Enemy of the state¨ (1998) by Tony Scott , and the images of his character in his younger days are taken directly from this film . Secondary cast is frankly good , such as John Cazale as his business associate , Allen Garfield as Bernie Moran , Frederic Forrest as Mark , Cindy Williams as Ann and special appearance by Robert Duvall as the Director . In addition , a pre-stardom Harrison Ford , Billy Dee Williams and Teri Garr appear in minor characters .

David Shire's original music was composed prior to production and played for the actors prior to their scenes to get them into the proper moods. Evocative and appropriate cinematography by Bill Butler and Haskell Wexler as uncredited director of photography . This well-made motion picture was stunningly directed by Francis Ford Coppola . In fact , this is Francis Ford Coppola's personal favorite of his movies. Coppola had written the outline in 1966 but couldn't get financing until The Godfather (1972) became a success. ¨The Conversation¨ resulted to be one of the best films of the 70s . Rating : Better than average , don't blink during throughout the film . Essential and indispensable seeing for thriller lovers and Gene Hackman fans .


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