The Conversation

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The Conversation is a 1974 American thriller written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gene Hackman. Also starring are John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest.

The Conversation won the Palme d'Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival,[1] and in 1995, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Originally, Paramount Pictures distributed the film worldwide. Paramount retains American rights to this day but international rights are now held by Miramax Films and StudioCanal in conjunction with American Zoetrope.



Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a surveillance expert who runs his own company in San Francisco. He is highly respected by others in the profession. Caul is obsessed with his own privacy; his apartment is almost bare behind its triple-locked door, he uses pay phones to make calls, claims to have no home telephone and his office is enclosed in wire mesh in a corner of a much larger warehouse. Caul is utterly professional at work but he finds personal contact difficult. He is uncomfortable in dense crowds and withdrawn and taciturn in more intimate situations. He is also reticent and secretive with work colleagues. He is nondescript in appearance, except for his habit of wearing a translucent plastic raincoat virtually everywhere he goes, even when it is not raining.

Despite his insistence that his professional code means that he is not responsible for worrying about the actual content of the conversations he records or the uses to which his clients put his surveillance activities, he is, in fact, wracked by guilt over a past wiretap job that left three people dead. His sense of guilt is sharpened by his devout Catholicism. His one hobby is playing along with his favorite jazz records on a tenor saxophone in the privacy of his apartment.

Caul and his friend Stan (John Cazale) have taken on the task of monitoring the conversation of a couple (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest) as they walk through crowded Union Square in San Francisco. This challenging task is accomplished. After Caul has worked his magic on merging and filtering different tapes, the final result is a sound recording in which the words themselves become crystal clear, but their actual meaning remains ambiguous.

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