Friday, September 10, 2010

Opening Shots #2: The Conversation

My admiration for the last shot of Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 paranoia classic, The Conversation, knows no bounds. It's more brilliant than the entirety of many other films (including some of the director's own films). Re-watching the film last week, I noticed that the opening shot (and sequence) is kind of brilliant, too, given that it's THE central event of the film. Like the last shot, it's filmed from the point of view of surveillance operatives. The event in this shot, the taping of a clandestine conversation between Frederic Forrest and Cindy Williams, is the film's primary obsession. It seems so banal, too: a street fair in which some garbled communications occasionally flare on the soundtrack. But it has a delicious creepiness to it, too, and it echoes through the rest of the movie.

Oh, and the movie? It's my favorite of Coppola's movies, bar none. You can have your Godfathers and your Apocalypses. I'll take this modest character study. A better depiction of alienation I have never seen on film. It might be my favorite movie of the 1970s. Here's to you, Harry Caul.


2 comments:

Jared Roberts said...

Hey Chris,
Coincidentally, I just re-watched The Conversation two nights ago, inspired to do so after seeing Tetro. The Conversation is SUCH a brilliant film. That opening shot begins in abstraction, all anonymous people. Gradually a picture comes together--content and not just form--as increasingly clearer sound begins to intrude into Caul's ear. (The mime, someone without sound, draws the most attention through his activity, oddly enough.) I take the film's end to be a happy one. Caul is finally out of his bubble, however reluctantly. What'd you think?

dr.morbius said...

Hi, Jared.

There's so much that I love about The Conversation that I don't know where to start. And, yes! The mime! That's so friggin awesome, given that the focus of the film is on sound and speech.

I think the final shot of the movie is more resigned than happy. Yes, Harry is out of his bubble--completely naked to the world, as it so happens. Yes, he has given up trying to find the surveillance apparatus and just sits there playing his saxophone. But the implications of the camera's movements--back and forth then back and forth--is just too disquieting to ignore. The movie, it seems, is saying that we all live in a fishbowl, so get used to it whether you like it or not. I find this particularly prescient given that more and more people have forfeited what privacy they may have had when they go online. This is relevant to me, personally, because I've found it expedient to have no more secrets. Kind of like Harry Caul, actually, and it WAS liberating for me, but in another life, I might have a very different experience of it.

Anyway, thanks for commenting.