Written and Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
This film is an American Zoetrope Production, which we have learned in class was one of the New Hollywood production studios. Francis Ford Coppola, undeniably one of the finest auteur/directors of the genre, created a superb Psychological Thriller with The Conversation. It appears at first be very understated, but the climax is anything but. The element that I found most striking in this film was the use of the more visually obvious components of the mise-en-scene such as props, places, and people, including a Mime in San Francisco's Union Square, to convey the mysterious complexity of the multi layered theme which questions our ability to interpret visual and audio information, recognize deception and determine what is true or real.
Something appears solid, yet it may merely be a reflection of what is perceived as reality. Under clandestine surveillance an event has been captured on tape or on film, yet it is shrouded in a veil of uncertainty. The movie begins with the Mime who's work it is to imitate life as he sees it. Therefore does Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a top notch audio surveillance expert, record conversations for his clients which are also a reflection of reality not unlike that of the mime. Harry must gather his information and report it with a sort of scholarly detachment. We, the audience, begin to interpret the message of The Conversation using our own instincts and trusting Harry's expert knowledge and judgement, which we soon discover has not always been so spot on. He has been deceived in the past which has contributed to his intense sense of self preservation, privacy, and growing paranoia.
Throughout most of the film Harry wears a somewhat sheer, yet cloudy raincoat where ever he goes. Initially this raincoat may innocently seem to be a representation of his eccentricity, but then it begins to tie in with other props in the film, such as the smokey dividing walls at his office loft. Only certain characters are seen and filmed through these smokey walls. They are the people who are deceiving him in some way. He himself is frequently veiled behind these dividers, but during the party scene he removes his protective raincoat. He lets down his armor for that sequence and this is when the real trouble begins. The only other moments in the film we see him sans raincoat are when he is at home alone or locked (sometimes literally in what appears to be a cage) into his work. Otherwise, the raincoat remains on his back, even when he's in bed with his girlfriend.