Francis Ford Coppola is, quite possibly, the director of some of cinema’s finest moments, with the three ‘Godfather’ films and “Apocalypse Now.” And, while the magnitude of these works ought to never be overlooked, the fact of the matter is that some of his other (and in one case, in this writer’s opinion, better) films often end up buried in the periphery of the praise that has slowly amassed over the decades. Said better film? The 1974 Gene Hackman espionage thriller “The Conversation.” Wedged right in there between “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II,” the flick was undervalued — but surely never forgotten — for quite some time, but has seen a resurgence in recent years (thank you Netflix). Now, a new video essay from the folks over at The Discarded Image has taken on the rather incredible opening sequence for their newest installment.
“The Conversation,” from its outset, declares itself to be something distinct in its genre, a step above much of the dumbed down and CG enhanced thrillers of today, a film that asks for patience and promises something deliciously rich and complex in return. The essay peels apart some of the layers of this success, and shows just how beautifully the first several minutes lay out everything that’s to come for Hackman’s Harry Caul. Almost more interestingly, the video carefully places “The Conversation” in the post Wikileaks and Edward Snowden world of mass surveillance, highlighting just how perfectly the film tackles privacy and what it means to know someone might just be listening to everything you do.
All in all, “The Discarded Image: Episode 4” is a fascinating look at an intensely compelling film. Be careful: the video is wrought with spoilers, and it’s a movie best seen unspoiled (though it is immensely enjoyable in every rewatch). Check it out below, along with the original opening sequence. And don’t forget to weigh in in the comments.