One of the greatest achievements in the history of modern-day cinema was legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola directing and releasing two films in the same year. One was the magnum opus “The Godfather Part II.” The second is another masterwork, “The Conversation” starring Gene Hackman, and while still highly regarded by cinephiles as a masterpiece of paranoia and the prescient notions of privacy, surveillance and the invasive nature of observation, the film, which also serves as a techno-thriller of its day, is still perhaps not as yet well known to mainstream audiences.
That may soon change as the New York-based specialty distributor Rialto Pictures is bringing Coppola’s “The Conversation” back to theaters (another incredible feat, Coppola was nominated twice that year for Best Director for “The Conversation” and “The Godfather” sequel; he would win for the latter).
The 1974 thriller, starring Gene Hackman—which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival that year— opens March 20 at New York’s Film Forum and Landmark’s Nuart Theatre in L.A., with newly struck 35mm prints personally supervised by Coppola. The rollout also offers theaters an alternate DCP restoration remixed in Dolby 5.1 by legendary sound designer Walter Murch.
Rialto has released a new poster and trailer which you can see below. Cineastes should note that Rialto has a close relationship with Criterion, so this may mean this newly restored ‘Conversation’ eventually comes to Blu-ray and DVD too.
“I’ve always been especially proud of ‘The Conversation,’ partly because it was from my own original story and screenplay,” Coppola said in a statement. “I count it among the most personal of all my films and I’m happy the movie became the very thing it was about — the invasion of privacy and its erosive impact on both victims and perpetrators. This was my goal when I conceived it over 40 years ago, and to my surprise, the idea still resonates today. I’m glad Rialto is bringing the film back to theaters so people can experience it the way it was first presented, on the big screen.”
In addition to winning Cannes’ top prize, “The Conversation” was nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Sound) and four Golden Globes (Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay), and garnered accolades and nominations from the BAFTA Awards, the National Board of Review, and a Best Director award from the National Society of Film Critics. “The Conversation” stars five-time Academy Award nominee Gene Hackman in one of his greatest roles as Harry Caul, a surveillance expert who finds himself caught up in murder.
The supporting cast includes such future luminaries as John Cazale (“Fredo” of Coppola’s first two ‘Godfather’ films), Cindy Williams (later star of TV’s “Laverne & Shirley“), Frederic Forrest (Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now“), Teri Garr (“Young Frankenstein“), and Harrison Ford (three years before “Star Wars”). In 1995, “The Conversation” was selected for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Here’s the official synopsis if you happen to not know what the film is about, but in short, it’s about a wiretapping expert who gets caught up in the conspiracy around a murder.
A masterpiece of societal paranoia in the guise of a techno-thriller, THE CONVERSATION follows lonely wiretapping expert and devout Catholic Harry Caul (Hackman), who is hired to record a seemingly innocuous conversation between two lovers (Forsythe and Williams) in San Francisco’s Union Square. Upon re-hearing the tapes, however, Caul believes he may be putting the couple in danger if he turns the material over to his client (Robert Duvall, in an unbilled cameo). But what one hears can ultimately turn out to be quite different from what was actually recorded.
Check out the poster, watch the trailer below and don’t forget to put this repertory release on your calendar.