Sunday, March 16, 2008
An Oldie But a Greatie: The Conversation, Starring Gene Hackman
I am embarrassed to say that I had never seen this amazing film until last night, which was a big loss on my part. Francis Ford Coppola not only produced and directed this thriller about an audio surveillance guru played by Gene Hackman, but he also wrote the almost Orwellian screenplay. This film grabs you from the first first stunning opening frames, and doesn't let you go -- it's classic Coppola. The Conversation is smart, savvy and an example of the brilliance of both Coppola and 1970s film-making before the big action blockbusters showed up and ended one of the golden ages of American cinema.
Look for a young Harrison Ford playing a sinister corporate frontman and Cindy Williams -- yes, Shirley!! -- playing the seemingly doomed young woman Hackman's been hired to spy on.
An interesting bit of trivia: Godfather fans will recognize Fredo in the film -- John Cazale, a young Italian-American actor who starred in only five films before dying of bone cancer. The films -- Godfathers I and II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter -- were all nominated for best-picture Academy Awards. Cazale was dying, in fact, when he made The Deer Hunter, and the studio wanted to fire him when they found out. But Meryl Streep, who was engaged to Cazale at the time, threatened to quit if he was removed from the film. Cazale, beloved for being a very kind-hearted, gentle and generous guy, died soon after.
Even though he has an exceptionally high forehead, I found Cazale disturbingly hot while watching The Conversation.