starring Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams
written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola
by Walter Chaw The moment I decided that movies were something to be respected, studied, opened layer-by-layer rather than merely enjoyed and cast aside was at a 16mm screening, in a college film course, of Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 masterwork The Conversation. If we were speaking in different terms, film before it for me is the equivalent of the girls I dated until I met my wife. It taught me about what it is to respect the medium; it showed me the joys of complexity and investment, and it showed me what it was to be in love. It hit me like a freight train. And not only had I never seen The Conversation prior to that hot, close afternoon in the common room where that seminar took place, I had never so much as heard of it. I was humbled by my ignorance, and that helped. I was also at a personal crossroads in my life--that didn't hurt, either. My sense memory of The Conversation is bifurcated between the feeling of my feet in socks walking along the carpeted hall of my dorm, down the concrete stairs, and into the screening area and sitting next to the girl I liked, who was wearing her sweats, no make-up--and the feeling, years and years later, of watching it on a shitty old laptop in bed with my wife while we waited for the first terrible contractions to happen during the first of our trio of miscarriages. Neither of us ever questioned the wisdom of putting it on, knowing that the toilet backflow scene was coming down the pike. We were naïve. We didn't know why we wanted to watch it so desperately that night. When people ask me what my favourite movie is, I tell them it's The Conversation. I don't even have to think about it.