The Conversation (1974)

Theconversation
 
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, Harrison Ford

Revisited this one recently to show it to my wife who has a penchant for mystery thriller movies. I find this to be Coppola’s third best film after Apocalypse and The Godfather, its use of sound design editing music, dialogue, and sound effects to reveal aspects of the mystery was innovative and engaging. A reflection of the times in which it was released, this became an unintentional echo of the Watergate trials.

The film follows a freelance surveillance expert working in San Francisco, hired to monitor a couple’s conversation for a cryptic business executive played by Harrison Ford. Disturbed by details of the conversation and an increase in suspicioius events surrounding his business and the job, Hackman’s character decides to delve deeper into the background of the assignment and discovers a horrible secret that could ruin his career if not his life.

Several scenes in this movie still stick with me, and it was refreshing upon viewing again after about 10 years to see my mind’s eye had preserved them accurately. The long lens deep focus shots of the couple walking through the crowd, the lonely, empty frames capturing Hackman at work in his warehouse office, the horrific toilet scene overlaid with distorted screams, and the final shot of Hackman, mentally broken, surrounded by the destructive power of his own paranoia. Credit where credit is due to Walter Murch, master editor and crafter of many these memorable interwoven sounds and images.

Also by this director: The Godfather (1972), Apocalypse Now (1979)

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

Directed by: Fax Bahr, Gearge Hickenlooper, Eleanor Coppola

Starring: Francis Ford Coopla, Cast & Crew of Apocalypse Now

Awards: Won Emmy’s for Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Directing and Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Picture Editing (1992)

After a bit of a hiatus due to life stepping in, I’m back. I won’t bore you with the details, but to make up for my absence here is a three part look (other two reviews to follow) at how, just like life, the making of movies can get complicated.

First off, let’s take a look at the making of a classic. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmaker’s Apocalypse is a documentary about the behind the scenes for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Having worked on a few movie sets myself, I’ve seen first hand some of the trials and tribulations involved with having a lot of people working under stressful conditions in tight quarters with clashing personalities. Nothing I’ve witnessed can compare to what the cast and crew for Apocalypse Now had to deal with in the Philippine jungles. Shot by Eleanor Coppola, the Director’s wife, Hearts of Darkness was meant to be a way to keep her busy while on set and also as a way to document the making of the film. What they got instead was a very personal look at human nature.

Apocalypse Now was a movie that defied the odds. Taped in a conversation with his wife unknowingly, Francis Ford Coppola confides that he thinks the film will be disastrous. He doesn’t like the ending and is shown to be clearly giving in to the pressure. At the verge of a nervous breakdown, one can see why after seeing the obstacles he has to face in telling his tale. One example is a Philippine military who loan him helicopters only to take them away at the spur of the moment to combat rebels. Another is having to replace main actor Harvey Keitel with Martin Sheen a week into shooting. Martin Sheen ends up having a complete breakdown while drunk in a scene as the audience gets to bare witness to a man battling his own personal demons.

The biggest confrontation in the film besides the Director being his own worse enemy is when he has to confront the main villain in his picture, Marlon Brando. Showing up on set exceeding the weight that the role called for, Francis is forced to shoot around him. Marlon Brando also proves to be a very difficult personality who forgets his lines, is impatient with direction, and overbearing. Despite all these problems and more that are shown by the documentary, Francis Ford Coppola overcomes his adversity and manages to create a film that is still highly regarded today as one of the best representations of the Vietnam War.

Here is the opening scene:

-Dantasia

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