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The Conversation

January 8, 2010

Talking of films which are also (kind of) about filmmaking, last weekend I came home from the pub and found The Conversation on BBC2. This was excellent. As I never tire of tediously telling people, The Conversation is an brilliant and meticulous film which is at least twice as good as the first two Godfathers put together (Coppola made The Conversation in between the two. For this reason I have a rather boring theory that The Prestige is Christopher Nolan’s The Conversation – a near-perfect film made quickly between two blockbusters).

I’m hard pressed to pick a favourite scene, so instead I have three. The first is Gene Hackman-as-Harry Caul’s dream sequence – a chilling existential fog in which he shouts out to an unseen pursuer “I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder”. Second is the frantic hotel room search in which Harry investigates a maybe-killing, which lurches into a panicked nightmare as a flushed toilet overflows impossibly with blood. But the best bit is the opening, during which the original instance of the title’s conversation takes part. Harry and three other operatives covertly record the dialogue between an unkown man and woman – like a camera crew and sound recordists setting up a shot. It’s a wonderful and complex sequence of editing, the sound flitting between the traffic and burble of San Francisco and snatches of the crucial recording, with dancing analogue interference obscuring key phrases and inflections. It’s also brilliantly economical, introducing us to Harry, his methods and preoccupations, and throwing in plenty of asides and atmosphere too – the mime, the tramp, the girls at the window. When people say Hollywood of the ’70s made the best movies there are, it’s because of movies like this.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 8, 2010 11:12 am

    I've got a hokey torrented copy of this that I've never got 'round to watching. Now I really want to. Tonight!

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