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The Conversation

Year: 1974
Production Co: American Zoetrope
Studio: Paramount
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Producer: Francis Ford Coppola
Writer: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, John Cazale, Teri Garr
Coppola never reached the heights of The Godfather again, but he comes close here in technical terms.

As with a lot of older films that feature technology heavily, you have to look beyond the era or you'll just laugh at the clunky machinery. It's almost an argument for remaking the movie four times – set in the immediate post-war period, the 70s, now and 50 years in the future – just to see how the technology of spooks will change.

Harry (Hackman) is the best eaves-dropping contractor in the business, living a Spartan life of quiet professionalism as he and his crew work on a recording taken of a conversation between a rich industrialists's wife (Laverne and Shirley's Williams) and her lover.

The story is less interesting than the idea, much of it vignettes of Harry's life as he spirals into guilt and paranoia such as an impromptu party at his lab and a trade show where he meets old foes and colleagues.

It's less dramatic than you hope it'll be, but Coppola wrangles tension out of the many scenes where Harry delves into the recording, overturning more and more seemingly impossible detail. His conscience getting the better of him when he suspects the couple are marked for death isn't strong enough and the twist – while effective – suffers for it.

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