Gene Hackman HARRY CAUL, a surveillance expert hired to do a little wiretapping in The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola's explosive and disturbing Watergate-era morality tale of slimy corporate treachery and dirty little secrets. You'll feel like taking a shower after this one.
Harry may be a nationally known expert on surveillance, but he's also got more than a few little personality problems. He's compulsively paranoid, a recluse, distrustful of everyone. And he's still wracked with guilt over an incident years ago, when his work indirectly led to the murder of three people. When the director of a large company hires him to record the conversations of two employees, Harry begins to fear that it will happen again.
It's a masterful performance, by both Coppala and Hackman, as the plot twists and turns, and clues are offered in snatches of dialogue, asides, and pieces of surveillance tape, that remain ambiguous even when sonic clarity is achieved. The swirling opening scene, as Harry and his crew eavesdrop on the employees in a crowded San Francisco lunchtime scene, complete with mime artist, and static bursts of conversation, is one of the more memorable scenes from film in the entire decade.
By the way, Hackman did a kind of reprise of the character, in 1998's Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith, when he appeared as a Brill, disillusioned and even more paranoid loner, a former NSA op now selling off his expertise to lawyers, while trying to conceal his identity from just about everyone.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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