CANCELED: The Conversation
All film screenings and public programs at BAMPFA have been temporarily canceled. Learn more
New 35mm Print!
James Mockoski is a film archivist and postproduction supervisor at American Zoetrope, where he has supervised the restoration of classic films including Dementia 13, Apocalypse Now, and The Rain People.
Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Frederic Forrest,
The Conversation is that rarity among Hollywood films: a formalist narrative. Not since Alfred Hitchcock had anyone contrived an American film with such intricate color patterns, subtly linked props and decor, intertwined musical motifs, and dialogue bristling with cross-references. But above all, The Conversation is a love story, the story of a professional eavesdropper who becomes vicariously involved with a woman he encounters through wiretapped conversations and surveillance cameras. Harry Caul, played by Gene Hackman, steals privacy for a living but is so obsessed with his own privacy that he suffers near-pathological loneliness and guilt. Contracted to trail an executive’s wife suspected of marital infidelity, Caul becomes fearful that he may be part of a murder plot. In many ways, The Conversation is Coppola’s response to Blow-Up, another film about a hero who can respond only through technology. But in Hackman’s hands, Caul is anything but emotionally dead. Unlike Michelangelo Antonioni’s nameless photographer, Caul suffers from a surfeit of feeling, agonizing inside his self-made traps.