Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Conversation (1974) DVD Review
Reviewed by: Amber WilkinsonRead Amber Wilkinson's film review of The Conversation
This handsome version of the film (also out on Blu-ray) certainly looks and sounds considerably better than the previous DVD release - and the addition of a whole slew of new extras makes it worth acquiring for fans.
The extras carried over from the previous DVD release include two commentary tracks, an on-set interview with Gene Hackman and a featurette from the shooting of the film entitled Close-up On The Conversation.
Francis Ford Coppola's commentary - recorded in 2000 - has a melancholy edge that feels somewhat fitting to the subject matter of the film. While not negative, as such, he has an Eeyore-like attitude to aspects of his career, seeming rather downbeat about the fact that this was one of the few original projects he has done, as it was always his intention to write source material rather than adapt. He also asserts: "However romantic it may sound filmmaking is a tedious process that requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice."
Away from these more negative insights, however, the commentary track contains plenty of interesting information, both in regard to his choice of shots and concerning both the shooting of the film and where it fits within his work. He talks about the influence of Antonioni's Blow Up, and the use of "dead camera" - static shots, with characters walking in and out of the frame, to give the suggestion that the action is being caught on a security camera.
Coppola also has plenty of warm words for his actors, particularly Harrison Ford, whom he says "enlarged and improved the role" and he pays tribute to the skills of John Cazale, who died tragically young in 1978.
Sound designer Walter Murch is on hand to provide a second commentary that is, in many ways, more engaging. He talks about the way in which he used shots that turned out wrong to twist the way some scenes worked in the editing process and also offers a wealth of trivia both about the way that the film was approached and things that happened on the set.
The archive interview and featurette (4 minutes and nine minutes respectively) give a fascinating snapshot of the time and the Gene Hackman element is particularly welcome as he is not included in any of the other extras here.
The new material included in the release includes Cindy William's screentest from 11/9/72, which sees her reading the role eventually occupied by Terri Garr. Her reading is entirely different to that of Garr's final portrayal and while illustrating her own versatility also underlines what is so brilliant about Garr's ulimate portrayal. Harrison Ford's screentest of 11/8/72 is also included, in which he takes on the Frederic Forrest role of Mark.
No Cigar is an interview that sees Coppola talking about an early film he made of the same name, which featured a character similar to that of Harry Caul. Again, he seems slightly regretful that his career hasn't allowed more "personal work". More upbeat is Coppola's own 10-minute interview with composer David Shire. Although rather roughly shot, it has a warm heart and sees the two reminisce about falling asleep while watching an early cut of the film and about the way that the music came to life. It wraps with a particularly endearing rendition of a song entitled Someone's Got To Clean The Elephant House.
Then And Now is also a smart addition, offering a four-minute series of snapshots comparing key locations in the scene with how they look today.
Finally the extras are rounded out by the obligatory trailer and almost 50 minutes of fascinating Script Dictations. He 'wrote' the script via dictation so it seems fitting that we get to see some of it - with notes scribbled in the margins' as we listen to the tapes from which it was transcribed being read by Coppola - to the clatter of the cafe where he worked - back in the Seventies. Where the script tallies up with film that was ultimately shot, footage is included, as are still shots from some scenes that were shot but didn't reach the final cut. Particularly interesting are the segments entitled Jack Tar Hotel and Police Station Ending, which would have taken the film in an utterly different direction.
A package of serious extras with no unecessary padding.Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2011