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

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Directed by Mel Brooks and starring Gene Wilder with Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, and Teri Garr, this comedy films parodies old horror films like the original Frankenstein. However, it also functions as a drama in its own right much like the original Frankenstein films. Wilder is a professor and the grandson of Victor Frankenstein. The thing is, he wants nothing to do with his infamous relative, even going so far as pronouncing his name differently. However, when he inherits the family estate he must face his ancestry head on. There temptation takes over and he begins to build a creature of his very own, with horrifyingly funny results. This film has memorable moments including “Putting on the Ritz” and the Inspector’s arm. I still cannot believe that Feldman’s eyes get that big either! Wow. Wilder plays well off his Creature and Garr and Cloris Leachman both have important roles in Mel Brooks’ comedy.

4/5 Stars

Tootsie (1982)

7425a-tootsie_impStarring Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Terri Garr, and BIll Murray, this comedy film follows a fiery actor as he tries to find work. Despite his skill, no one wants to work with Michael Dorsey (Hoffman) and so he masquerades as a woman to get a job on a soap. However, soon he gets so caught up in his role as Dorothy, he cannot get himself out. His character is so popular on the soap that she is renewed forcing Dorsey to endure it even longer. Then he finds himself befriending a shy actress on the soap (Lange) while he starts neglecting another actress friend (Garr). Along the way he has many awkward moments and romantic entanglements. The worst of these comes when he must reveal who he is (only his roommate and agent know). At first it causes pain but ultimately honesty is the way to go. This film was reminiscent of screwball comedies and it had some very hilarious moments. I have to say Hoffman pulled it off.

4/5 Stars