The Conversation is now open for discussion

Our May 2007 film selection, The Conversation, is now open for discussion. Members who would like to Post an Official Commentary here are welcome to do so (Contact Ron or Roger if you would like to have posting priveleges to this blogsite). Anyone, member or not, can place brief comments here by simply clicking on the comments button.


2 thoughts on “The Conversation is now open for discussion

  1. Blow-Up is a Gnostic exploration of how a culture consumed by appearance vanquishes the real. Meshing form with content, the highly ambiguous film overswhelms viewers with the same confusions that beset the characters.

    The deep value in films like Blow-Up is to activate Gnostic currents to shatter the “given” and open new vistas.

    In this same period Fellini’s 1963 8 1/2 reveals Cabbalistic ideas taht an ideal human above the fray might be achieved via artifice–the creation of a purely cinematic Adam. In 1971 Visconti via Death In Venice creates an alchemical vision suggesting that only by embracing death can one discover the golden child within–one’s essence.

    Cheerfully, RK

  2. THE CONVERSATION (1974) does age well as a character study. Its technology seems dated, of course. Surveillance today I have no doubt would put that old reel to reel tape technology to shame, in the era of microchips and miniaturization. Coppola likes this little film, and he had trouble initially getting it produced. Only his success with THE GODFATHER allowed him the clout to twist a few arms. As a writer, influenced by Tennessee Williams, he wanted to take his small projects and make intimate films, not blockbusters. Isn’t it odd that GODFATHER and APOCALYPSE NOW to this point stand as his cornerstone works, allowing him to do several other less successful smaller projects.

    Coppola chose his brother-in-law, David Shire to compose the music for THE CONVERSATION, and his haunting single piano seemed to hit just the right emotional timbre; and then to make Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) a saxophone player, who sits solo at night and wails away, was a wonderful secondary touch. Caul was such a cold fish, such a secretive human being; it was fun to hear complete statements coming from him in the language of jazz. It is an interesting name, Caul, meaning veil or membrane over the face of a fetus; heavy symbolism. Coppola stated that he was heavily influenced by Antonioni’s BLOW UP (1966), and he liked the idea that the director’s camera was watching the surveillance expert as he “listened” to other characters; working in a mystery that was also homage to Hitchcock. He, like Antonioni, shot abstractly at his characters, through and around plastic a lot; smoked barriers, rippled windows, pebbled glass, and the incessant appearance of Caul’s god awful clear plastic raincoat.

    Robert Duvall did an uncredited cameo, and Frederic Forrest, John Cazale, and Teri Garr all did fine work as members of his repertory. Allen Garfield did a bang up job as the competing surveillance expert, Bernie Moran. Garr’s sweet, yet sad, cloistered mistress cloys to our minds, in her white socks and short blond locks. A nice surprise was how good Harrison Ford really was in what could have been a non-descript walk on. Coppola was impressed with his inventiveness. Hackman found in Caul a character he could barely live with, and he had difficulty shedding it off camera. Still it stands as some of his best work

    Haskell Wexler shot the big opening sequence in the park, with the whole surveillance team. Then he and Coppola had an “artistic difference of opinion”, and he was replaced by Bill Butler who did a seamless job of the rest of the film. Coppola said he closed down the film four days early because he was so stressed out. The dream sequence with Caul and Cindy Williams in the park, midst all that fog, was supposed to be part of the actual ending of the film, but the fog machine got out of hand, and people complained, sending in the SF police to harass the team. Coppola was faced with providing us with a different ending, and he found a perfect one. Caul, at last succumbed to his personal paranoia, tearing up his apartment looking for the bug Moran used on him, and then sitting exhausted in the wreckage, blowing out his pain in jazz riffs on his sax. Coppola suggested later that the bug might have been in the saxophone strap itself.

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