Scene Gems: Hackman Discovers the Truth about 'The Conversation'

Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974) is not a thriller (though it has many thriller elements), but a character study of a freelance wiretapper who breaks his own rule and begins to care about one of his targets. He is Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a sad-sack of a man who is all business, but obviously has some serious guilt issues. It's another great Hackman performance, as he gets us to care about this lonely man and his problems.

This sequence perfectly illustrates everything about the movie. We see the technical side of Harry as he meticulously puts together a master recording from four isolated sources. We see Harry's staunch religious convictions. The flashbacks of the recorded couple (Cindy Williams and Michael Higgins) are expertly edited together with the whirring tape reels and other cutaways by Richard Chew. Sound is especially important here, due to the subject matter, and it's a great how the puzzle comes together.

I also like the cinematography from veteran lenser Bill Butler. Notice the long shots employed by him as we, the audience, also spy on the couple in question. I really like the angle on Hackman, as he is positioned in the most powerful place he can possibly be--looking directly at us.