Francis Coppola’s The Conversation stars Gene Hackman as a professional surveillance expert whose resurgent conscience involves him in murder and leads to self-destruction.
He is introduced in SF’s Union Square at midday, teamed with John Cazale and Michael Higgins in tracking the movements and voices of Frederic Forrest and Cindy Williams. The cleaned-up sound tapes, along with photographs, are to be delivered to a mysterious businessman, played in an unbilled part by Robert Duvall. What appears to be a simple case of marital infidelity suddenly shifts to a possible murder plot.
A major artistic asset to the film – besides script, direction and the top performances – is supervising editor Walter Murch’s sound collage and re-recording. Voices come in and out of aural focus in a superb tease.
1974: Nominations: Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Sound