Tag: Gene Hackman

Time for a new Conversation

Monday, 28 October, 2013 0 Comments

The winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival was The Conversation, a cautionary technological tale written, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Cindy Williams, Robert Duvall and Harrison Ford. Since then, The Conversation has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

What made the film especially significant was that it employed the same surveillance equipment that members of the Nixon Administration used when spying on political opponents. Because the film was released just before Richard Nixon resigned as President, many interpreted it to be a commentary on the Watergate scandal and on the dangers of technology in the hands of those determined to use it for personal or political advantage.

So what are the chances of Hollywood producing a Conversation for our times? You know, one that would highlight any theoretical abuse of surveillance power by the Obama administration. Don’t hold your breath. “Obama fundraiser at George Clooney’s home nets $15 million” reported CNN in May last year. Attendees included, “DreamWorks studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg; designer Diane Von Furstenberg; Barbra Streisand and her actor husband James Brolin. “Folks are still hurting out there and those frustrations with Washington and the nonsense they see on the news is making them more cynical than they were in 2008,” Obama said. How true. But Hollywood “folks” ain’t hurting too bad so it’s unlikely they’ll be making movies about “the nonsense they see on the news” anytime soon. Anyway, they’d prefer not to offend their candidate.

Note: A few short years ago in Germany, a rabid hatred of George W. Bush was regarded as a sign of sanity but the mania ended in 2008 and was followed by a wave of Obama idolatry, equally terrifying in its obsessiveness. This fever has cooled, too, and Germany’s yellow press is now comparing Obama to Nixon using words that evoke Watergate.

Bild and  Obama

The Conversation

Tuesday, 11 June, 2013 0 Comments

Those wondering about Edward Snowdon, his motivations and deeds, might consider watching The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola’s brilliant, paranoid psychological thriller from 1974. Starring Gene Hackman, with supporting roles by John Cazale, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford and Robert Duvall, the film addresses the social role of technology and examines the effects of spying on the human mind and the cost of being forced to keep secrets against one’s principles.

Although Gene Hackman’s character does not understand the true meaning of the conversation he has recorded, he finds it deeply troubling. Sensing danger, he is increasingly uneasy about what may happen to the couple involved once the client hears the tape, so he plays it again and again throughout the film, gradually refining its content, constantly reinterpreting the speakers’ emphasis on particular words and phrases, trying to figure out their meaning in the light of what he fears.

The horrific tension so brilliantly portrayed by Gene Hackman in The Conversation comes to mind in considering the mental condition of those whistle-blowers who make confidential material available to the public. How do they deal with the risks? How do they cope with the often unforeseen consequences of their actions?

“Bless me Father for I have sinned. Three months since my last confession. I — these are my sins. Took the Lord’s name in vain on several occasions. On a number of occasions, I’ve taken newspapers from the racks without paying for them. I’ve — deliberately taken pleasure in impure thoughts. I’ve been involved in some work that I think, I think will be used to hurt these two young people. It’s happened to me before. People were hurt because of my work and I’m afraid it could happen again and I’m — I was in no way responsible. I’m not responsible. For these and all my sins of my past life, I am heartily sorry.” Harry Caul (Gene Hackman)