With the News of the World phone tapping scandal fresh in our minds comes the timely re-release of Francis Ford Coppola's study of surveillance, The Conversation. Harry (Gene Hackman) is the best in the tapping business because he doesn’t ask questions. When his latest recording threatens to bring violence to a young couple, Harry feels the tingle of a long forgotten conscience and decides to nose about. He soon finds the tools of his trade turned against him by shadowy employers.
Coppola uses clever devices to explore the invasion of people’s privacy: CCTV camera shots, queasy close-ups and distorted sounds all portend the rise of machines. It’s the simple study of Harry that’s the main focus of the film, however. Hackman’s portrayal of a social cipher, a paranoid man with nothing to say, is both disturbing and fascinating. Despite its blu-ray buff, The Conversation is an uncomfortable watch. Well worth the strain though. [Alastair Roy]