The Conversation (1974) Review

It’s the final day of Coppola Week at Cinema Parrot Disco & I’ll be finishing with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. I’ve also reviewed his movie The Outsiders and his daughter Sofia’s movies The Bling Ring & Marie Antoinette. Yesterday, I ranked their films in a list of My Top Ten Coppola Movies.

Now let’s talk about The Conversation, which is one that doesn’t seem to get mentioned that much but is really quite good…

The Conversation (1974)

Directed & Written by Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Michael Higgins, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, Teri Garr

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered.

My Opinion:

First of all, let’s face it: I suck at writing “movie reviews”. πŸ˜‰ I’ll remain spoiler free for anyone who hasn’t seen this movie but for those who have, you’re much better off reading this article HERE than my ramblings below. It’s Francis Ford Coppola being interviewed by fellow filmmaker Brian De Palma about the making of The Conversation. It’s a really interesting read considering it’s a conversation between two respected directors. Damn – Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t totally love Alfred Hitchcock movies, though!

I can see where Hitchcock comparisons were made in the above article as the plot of this movie certainly has a Hitchcock feel to it, which is probably why I enjoyed the story since I love Hitchcock’s films. As also pointed out in that article, its story is somewhat similar to the 1966 film Blow-Up but has a conversation being listened to over & over again that takes on new meaning instead of a photograph as in that film? Maybe – I did see Blow-Up a very long time ago but remember very little now. I should watch it again!

The Conversation is very good and I even prefer it to Apocalypse Now but I’ll admit that I also found it a little slow & dated. The opening scene was absolutely brilliant, in which Cindy “Shirley” Williams & the man in the above picture (not the stupid mime – the other guy) are being “listened to” & recorded by surveillance expert Gene Hackman as they walk around a loud & crowded Union Square in San Francisco.

One of the biggest strengths of this film is, surprisingly, Gene Hackman as the surveillance expert who has been hired to spy on this couple but becomes increasingly concerned with what he fears the outcome will be as a previous surveillance job resulted in people being murdered. I don’t mean to be rude about Hackman – it’s just that he’s one of these old male actors who has been around for years but I’ve never really “noticed” him all that much. He’s great in this role, though! His job has led him to be extremely secretive, paranoid, and obsessed with his own privacy. Or perhaps he was this way to begin with, which is how he ended up in a job which would result in him living a very lonely life? Either way, it means he’s unable to form any close relationships as he doesn’t trust anyone, which we see in the way he interacts with colleagues and especially with his lover (played by Teri Garr). Oh! Oh!! And I read that, basically, Hackman is playing this same character again in Enemy Of The State with Will Smith?? I mean, not the actual same character but one very similar. I wonder if that was intentional? I guess I need to watch that one again as well as Blow-Up! Anyway: Bravo to Hackman in this film.

You know who else is in this movie? Harrison Ford!!! It makes for a nice little American Graffiti connection with Cindy Williams. But he doesn’t have a huge role. Luckily. Because, um, his acting is a little dodgy… I mean, it was still very early in his career so who cares if his acting was a little “off” – the dude is Indiana Jones & Han Freaking Solo! Look at him – so damn handsome:


I know I haven’t seen all of Francis Ford Coppola’s films but The Conversation is a very good piece of filmmaking that I suppose gets somewhat unfairly ignored as it came out in between The Godfather & The Godfather: Part II. It’s slow & subtle and not some “grand epic” like those but the mystery involving the couple Hackman is spying on had me intrigued and Hackman’s performance deserves special recognition. I forgot to mention during my review yet another movie this one reminded me of: the absolutely brilliant German film The Lives Of Others. The Conversation isn’t quite as good as that one nor as good as its Hitchcock comparisons but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good “mystery thriller” with a great central performance. Don’t let my score slightly put you off as I rate mainly according to my own personal enjoyment & this one did drag a bit in the middle. If I was basing this only on worthiness, I’d give The Conversation a slightly higher rating. 

My Rating: 7/10

Since I couldn’t help but think of Laverne & Shirley anytime Cindy Williams was on the screen, here’s one of the many excellent clips from my beloved Wayne’s World. Zang! πŸ˜‰

18 thoughts on “The Conversation (1974) Review

  1. Love The Conversation. One of my favorites. Hackman is good. he was great but he has done about one hundred films too many. He’s diluted his own work and he looks like the same guy in everything. The same thing is happening to Al Pacino. In his early work you can easily discern the differences between his characters. Now it’s just Al. Just Bobby. Just Gene Hackman. (see also French Connection, Unforgiven, Supermans I & II, Young Frankenstein and The Birdcage) Roman Coppola does some good work too. (Television – Mozart in The Jungle) But my favorite Coppola (besides Nicholas Cage) is Sofia. I love her work. She was very close to taking the Kubrick title until Alejandro came along. My girl’s got skillz. Good blog series.

    • Yay! Finally – someone who likes this movie!! πŸ™‚ It’s had the least comments by far of all the Coppola ones I talked about. It seems unfairly ignored – it really is good. Totally agree on Hackman, Pacino & De Niro! A lot of old male actors are like that. Ed Harris. James Caan. Robert Duvall. I get them all confused. Like, holy shit – Hackman was in Unforgiven?? I’ve forgotten that and I just watched that recently! lol. I like Sofia a lot too. I mean, she’s had some I didn’t love but that was more because I didn’t like what they were about (like The Bling Ring). But, although I placed the Godfathers at the top of my list, Lost In Translation is really right up there with them. I’d far rather re-watch that than the Godfathers. I hope she makes one like that again.

  2. great review as always Mutant.

    dunno why u think u suck at this…because u dont!

    really need to rewatch this. saw it years ago. maybe i’ll get to it this week

    yes, the enemy of the state aspect is on purpose, there r tons of connections between the two including locations and a raincoat.

    u should rewatch that one too!

    • Aww. Thanks! Well, I’m no writer but I like to talk about movies. πŸ™‚ Maybe I’ll watch Enemy of the State again someday. I just don’t remember a thing about it and, if I’d loved it, I’d remember it.

  3. This has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than the Laverne and Shirley reference at the end. I caught an episode on some strange station the other day and I realized that when it aired, Shirley was supposed to be the cute one, but viewing today with today’s ‘ideals’ Shirley now seems to be the more attractive one. It was a totally random, way to late at night, sleep deprived thought that you suddenly brought back to the front of my memory. As for this film, I have never even heard of it. I should probably check it out.

    • Lol! This is true… You mean Laverne was the hot one? Yeah – Shirley would be considered the cute one now. πŸ™‚ I haven’t seen that show in YEARS. I suddenly want to now! Oh, and The Conversation is worth a watch too. πŸ˜‰

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