09 April 2010

The Conversation

Some films are the equivalent of comfort food, and this is one. (Full disclosure: I needed to put something on while I did laundry and filed my taxes. This was my choice.) This film is a smart procedural. It reminds me of Primer, in that it is about technical-minded people, and Coppola (like Carruth would twenty years later) really respects his audience. He knows you'll figure it out, and he knows that if the story is driven by a complicated, well-realized character you'll follow him into the mystery. Sure, it's a movie about surveillance and technology and mistrust and interpretation, but more than that it's about the man, Harry Caul. You wouldn't know it to look at him, but Harry is the perfect noir detective: a cynical man with an unwavering personal moral code, beaten down but full of fight, unable to connect with the people he loves but driven to save and protect them, flying wildly into chaos seeking salvation the way a missile seeks heat. (Okay I admit, I went a little off-the-rails with my mixed metaphors at the end there -- and there too.)

Movies aren't this smart very often, so you've got to savor it when you can. There's a strange matter-of-factness to the way the story builds and plays out that I find a little emotionally off-putting and at the same intriguing, intellectually inviting. It's the perfect way to tell this story. And the final, psychic breakdown of such a layered character, as seen in this amazing scene, is one of my favorites of all time.

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