The Conversation (1974)

6d644-theconversationDirected by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gene Hackman, this film begins with a commonplace conversation between a young man and woman in the relatively busy Union Square in San Francisco. As they make their way around their words seem of little importance and yet unbeknownst to them they are being followed and recorded. 

The mastermind behind it all is the surveillance expert Harry Caul who uses his know-how and a small team to track their words from a van.  As a professional and a highly respected member of his field, Caul is guarded and he tries not to concern himself with the reasons behind his surveillance. However, as he works his magic in his private lab space, Caul finally does become affected when he picks up on bits and pieces of the conversation. It deeply troubles him and he continually plays the tapes back. 

Because of his concern, Caul holds out on giving the tapes to the assistant of the Director, the man who commissioned the job. The aide pressures him more and more and then finally Caul finds the tapes are stolen. Fearing that the couple is in grave danger, Caul takes the room right next to theirs, but unfortunately despite his best efforts, his fears seem to be confirmed. After searching the empty room Caul goes to confront the Director only to find that things are not as they seem and Caul is the only one who realizes it. The disillusioned man is then threatened over the phone and informed that now the shoe is on the other foot and he is under constant surveillance. Little did he know the implications of the conversation… 

Gene Hackman may have played more memorable characters like Popeye Doyle, Lex Luthor, or even Norman Dale in the Hoosiers, however, I am not sure if he played a more complex character than Harry Caul. He is a detached man who has no telephone, tells white lies about his birthday, has multiple locks on his door, keeps his equipment caged and he has no significant relationships. The other side of him loves the saxophone and is a devout Catholic. He is no hero and not what we would normally call a villain. He is Harry Caul a lonely, confused human who has tendencies for good but still constantly struggles to reconcile that with his career. Above all, The Conversation is a thought-provoking psychological thriller which gives the audience lots to mull over.
 
4.5/5 Stars

Review: American Graffiti (1973)

e38f5-americang3 The year was 1962. Cars were cool, the music was hopping, and teens were young and in love. It’s a simpler world, but it is not a world without your typical worries, especially since high school is over and college is just around the corner for some.

Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) is destined for college with a big scholarship under his belt, but he is still not convinced it’s the right fit for him.

Steve (Ron Howard) is also college bound, but he finds himself spending his last night patching things up with his girlfriend, Curt’s sister Laurie (Cindy Williams).

Their friend Toad (Charles Martin Smith) has the night of his life with Debbie (Candy Clark), leaving his puny Vespa behind after Steve’s loans his ride to the lovable geek.

Cool king of the strip John Milner (Paul Le Mat) gains an annoying co-passenger and winds up having an unorthodox but memorable night all the same.

It would be a pleasure to dive further and further into each arc, but it seems wholly unnecessary. The joy of American Graffiti is the ride it takes you on. The differing perspectives, varying experiences, and ultimately, a full realization of a certain time and place. True, I was never around in 1962, but it feels like I was. Some of Buddy Holly’s thunder has been stolen by the Beach Boys. JD (James Dean) is boss and Ozzie and Harriet can be seen on the picture tube. It goes without saying that the hottest pastimes are cruising and necking.

Understandably, George Lucas pulled from his own past love of cars and music to transport us back in time. That would have been impossible without the music that acts as the ultimate jukebox and it is pervasive wherever the night takes us. With that nostalgia comes Wolfman Jack who highlights the lightness of the age while also making a more somber cameo which contrasts with the image that he created on the radio waves.

This is a story about young adolescents, and it certainly is a comedy as life is often a comedy. There are memorable moments, fights, and times where we just need to puke. Through it all we learn a little about ourselves and those around us. Dreams can be made and re-imagined as they were for Steve and Curt. However, when it all comes down to it, each one of us has our own path we must carve an existence out of. For each individual it looked a little different. However, one of the reasons I always come back to American Graffiti is the timelessness or rather the way it so wonderfully freezes time. I feel like I’m there in the moment with these characters. I laugh, cheer, and empathize with them. Perhaps the time and place of their world differs from mine, but their worries and aspirations are universal.

No one wants to fade into the past and we all are looking for our girl in the white T-Bird. Only time will tell what actually happens. We just have to live life and see what kind of ride we get taken for.

5/5 Stars

American Graffiti (1973)

Starring Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss with a host of others, this George Lucas directed film follows the lives of young people in California during the early 60s. It is the night before Curt and Steve are going off to college. They both want to make the most of the time left. However, Steve spends all his time trying to strengthen his relationship with his girlfriend (Cindy Williams). Curt, on the other hand, finds himself out in the town talking with girls and proving himself to a group of thugs. The rest of the film consists of the hot rodding antics of two other characters. A tough speedster (Paul Le Mat) finds himself driving around a 12-year-old girl. “Toad” the nerdy one (Charles Martin Smith), finds himself spending a wild night with a nice but peculiar girl.

With its classic music accompanied by Wolfman Jack and the vintage cars, American Graffiti is a blast of nostalgia that allows us to remember simpler times. It takes this important day in the life of these young individuals and it allows us to be a part of it. Each character has his own experiences that cause them to grow. Toad matures, Curt realizes he must experience college, Steve learns the importance of his girlfriend, and Milner realizes he really does not want to be “The King” anymore.

This film may have slower parts but that just makes it more enjoyable because then the night kicks into high gear when Toad loses the car, Milner beats up the thugs, or Curt has visions of a blonde in a T-Bird. Fittingly as he flies away to his unknown future he sees her white car cruising down the road. It was something that I had wanted to see the first time around but I had seemingly missed it. It made the ending even better.

5/5 Stars