Runtime: 1 Hour
and 53 Minutes
Perhaps I have been ruined by modern movies. That is entirely possible.
Maybe I can no longer appreciate a movie with a slower pace, a film
that takes the time that it needs to and develops in its own time.
No, wait a second. I think I have liked many movies like that. I point
to my appreciation of "2001: A Space Odyssey", a film that
doesn't care what you think, it moves at its own speed, the speed
at which objects in space really do travel. I also liked "The
Talented Mr. Ripley" which is paced just as fast as it needs
to be, and is nothing less than fascinating in revealing the shadows
and mystery of its main character.
But for a movie with a slower pace to work, it has to draw me in somehow.
There has to be some hook that keeps me watching, that fascinates
me. "2001" is slow but never, ever boring. Though the pace
may be a fairly slow one, the movie has something interesting to say
and there is always a fascinating image or idea on the screen. The
world of the film is so well imagined that you cannot help but be
hooked. What movie was I talking about again? Oh yeah- "The Conversation".
"The Conversation" did not hook me.
The plot is this: Gene Hackman plays Harry Caul. Harry is one of the
best surveillance men in the business. Though it is curious that he
really doesn't seem all that great at it. Take, for example, the way
that his phone number is a closely guarded secret yet his landlord
and a client both manage to have it. Take, for example, the way he
invites people back to his apartment for drinks after a convention
and they discover a secret recording that no one is supposed to know
about. Or any number of such screw-ups. Anyway, Harry has made a recording
of a conversation in the park for a powerful client. At first, the
conversation really doesn't seem to mean anything. It is only when
things start turning suspicious around him that Harry starts investigating
the conversation and trying to discover some deeper meaning to it
What is the deeper meaning to it all? I'm not sure. I hope this is
a movie that reveals more layers on later viewings, because it didn't
reveal a hell of a lot on its first one. I don't mind a slow pace
and languid plotting, but I would like for SOMETHING to happen in
the course of a film. At the end, when revelations are made (or are
they?) they really aren't anything that special.
There are a couple of interesting things in this movie. One of them
is Gene Hackman's performance. It is perfectly modulated and fulfills
my ultimate test of a great performance: do you think of any of the
actor's other roles instead of thinking of the one he is playing?
The answer is no. I never even connected him with the man in "Unforgiven"
or "Loose Cannons" (I'm sure Gene is happy about that: I'm
thinking he wants as few people to connect him with "Loose Cannons"
as possible). He simply becomes this guy, warts and all. The problem
is that, as good as his performance is, it just can't make up for
the relative dullness of the whole thing. Except for a pretty creepy
scene involving a toilet (worthy of its reputation and, no doubt,
the whole reason that this movie is still discussed) there aren't
many moments that stimulated me. My mind wandered quite a bit during
this movie, even though I didn't want it to. I love Coppola, and I
like Gene Hackman, and I liked pretty much all the cast, and the scene
with the toilet was pretty involving, but there just isn't much else
to draw the viewer in.
Maybe I was missing the point of it or something, but I don't think
so. I think it's about privacy and security and stuff like that.
I just didn't really care. And I think that's kind of the point to
a movie, isn't it?