Anniversary Post: The Conversation

The Conversation

Today, 7 April, I have a twofer. Francis Coppola is 81. But perhaps more important, in 1974, one of my favorite films, and certainly my favorite Coppola film, The Conversation, was released.

The 1970s is my favorite decade for film. It produced a lot of great cynical and paranoid work. The decade fully embraced the idea that we don’t know what the hell is going on. And I like that!

My problem with conspiracy theories is that they provide a narrative about what’s happening. In that way, they are no different than the official line. But in these films, there may be conspiracies, but we can’t know which.

Harry Caul

In The Conversation, Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is an insider. He can hear what people say in private. But this doesn’t get him any closer to the truth. He’s completely wrong about the main mystery in the film.

When I first saw the film, I was surprised that people were talking about where the bug was placed in the final scene. It didn’t occur to me to ask that question because the whole point of the movie is that regardless how good you get at invading others’ privacy, you can never protect your own.

There’s something ultimately liberating about the ending. Harry knows he’s under surveillance, but he literally has nothing to hide. He never did. His fear of surveillance caused him to live a life utterly devoid of anything anyone would be interested in — except, of course, his own surveillance work.

Also on 7 April

Also released today: Peeping Tom (1960), Captain Kronos — Vampire Hunter (1974), Basket Case (1982) and Major League (1989).

Actor James Garner (The Rockford Files) was born in 1928, Andrew Sachs (Fawlty Towers) was born in 1930, Jackie Chan (Police Story) is 66, and Russell Crowe (LA Confidential) is 56.

Director Alan J Pakula (Klute) was born in 1928.

The Conversation poster via Wikipedia under Fair Use.

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