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The Conversation (12)

An extraordinarily tense thriller from The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola at the peak of his immense directorial talent.

This tense thriller presents Francis Ford Coppola at his finest—and makes some remarkably advanced arguments about technology’s role in society that still resonate today. Gene Hackman’s performance as Harry Caul, a surveillance expert who encounters a moral dilemma when his recordings reveal a potential murder, is outstanding, but it’s the sound that is the true star of the show.

The film won the BAFTA for Best Soundtrack, as well as being nominated for an Academy Award, and rightly so. The sound is so detailed, it may not be apparent to the viewer—the dialogue was repeatedly recorded in different ways to represent Hackman’s changing perception of what he’s hearing—but it contributes to the overall feeling of paranoia.

The film also features a piano score composed and performed by David Shire which he created before the film was shot. On some cues, Shire used musique concrète techniques, taking the taped sounds of the piano and distorting them in different ways to create alternative onalities to round out the score.

  • DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola
  • CAST: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford


Welcome to our Sound Season screenings. To accompany our summer of sound at the museum, we’ve curated a season of films that speak to the many roles of sound in cinema. Some feature sound as the subject, some have famous soundtracks, some have groundbreaking sound effects—all are a treat for your ears.

Read more about Sound Season

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