director Francis Ford Coppola
At the end of 2013, in compiling my “Best of” list, I was pretty seriously disappointed, but just in the new films of the year but even of the films that I had culled and watched. Even of the movies that I selected to watch for fun, I saw very few great, exciting stuff. While I can blame the movie universe for a bad 2013, I figured that I’ve only got myself to blame for the rest of it. So, I reignited a grouping of films from my movie queue, lots of well-known films considered to be great or classic or at least highly noteworthy. And most particularly, films that I have never seen.
The Conversation has long been one of those movies that I’d never seen but had always wanted to see. Don’t know why, but I had never seen it. It’s even got that great old San Francisco connection, my city of residence for more or less the last quarter century. So why not?
I’ve had this real question about Francis Ford Coppola. Again, another local angle. But despite his great film work of the 1970’s, almost everything else he’s done has been mediocre at best. Well, maybe he had some stuff in the early 1980’s.
It’s the story of a top notch surveillance technician, played impeccably by Gene Hackman, who is hired to track a couple having a conversation in SF’s Union Square. The couple is Frederic Forrest and Laverne & Shirley‘s Cindy Williams, and they seem to be worried about being followed, perhaps in danger for their lives. Hackman is concerned that if he gives the tapes over to his employer that the couple will be endangered, referencing an event that happened to him before, something that has made him reclusive and self-protective.
It’s a very good film, very interesting, well-composed, great cast. Quite understated in its way.
It’s interest in surveillance seems quite prescient in our time of NSA wiretapping, ubiquitous cameras tracking society’s every moves, levels of surveillance hyped up to probably levels unimaginable in 1974. The technology of the film is kind of fascinating itself in its analog epicness.
As for Coppola, has any director had a better year than 1974? The Conversation and The Godfather Part II? One Palme D’Or on Best Picture Oscar. And more importantly, they are both considered pretty great movies.