The Conversation

Introduction by Steven Biel
New 35mm print
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
With Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield.
US, 1974, 35mm, color, 113 min.
Print source: HFA

This season, our ongoing series of rare and unique prints from the HFA’s vast collection continues. Thanks to an initiative with the Yale Film Archive, a new 35mm print of The Conversation was created in November 2023 from a preservation duplicate negative provided by American Zoetrope.

I would be perfectly happy to have all my personal things burn up in a fire. Because I don’t have anything personal.

The postrevolutionary paranoia of the early 1970s suffuses The Conversation. Even so, Coppola depoliticizes this thriller, removing action, character and history by going over the same tape again and again, in an aural, Watergate-era version of Blowup. Gene Hackman, as a professional wiretapper, plays a self-consciously anonymous man at the top of a clandestine profession in which no moment between human beings cannot be recorded. He becomes unglued once he takes an interest in the story beyond its audio quality.

Made between The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather, Part II (1974), Coppola’s Palme d’Or-winning Conversation applies the eeriness and quiet of San Francisco to the murk of the corporate thriller. The doomed quality of the talented cast of character actors deepens the atmosphere of mistrust and conspiracy that’s on display in this hesitant masterpiece of Murchian sound design. – A.S. Hamrah, from the HFA program Furious and Furiouser, Autumn 2015

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