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The Conversation (1974) (wikipedia.org)
57 points by primigenus on Sept 13, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 33 comments

Obviously, this is being posted because of the NSA and FBI scandals even though it was, originally, more of a response to the Watergate scandal. Even if you're sick of hearing about all of those this is still a fantastic film and well worth watching.

Gene Hackman plays a private consultant who specializes in the surveillance of difficult targets, such as people talking as they walk through a crowd. Technology is handled brilliantly in this film. It's antiquated analogue 70's tech obviously, but it's also both believable and impressive. Hackman's character is layered and complex. He specializes in surveillance but values his own privacy to the point of paranoia. The Conversation makes an incredibly strong statement about the value of privacy and the price of destroying it. Who watches the watchers? Somebody apparently, and the watchers don't like it one bit!

If you're not convinced, read one of Ebert's reviews.



The film is also still really fresh if you are a seasoned technologist. Hackman's character goes to a trade show in one part of the movie where he looks at all the new surveilance equipment he can buy and talks to some vendors, and it really feels amazingly real and accurate.

Whenever I debug some particularly difficult bug, I think of the scene where he basically tears his house down looking for the other kind of bug.

I, too, love this film, to the point that I ended up in the same line of work - mostly for the entertainment industry, but sometimes for other purposes.

He specializes in surveillance but values his own privacy to the point of paranoia.

There's a striking overlap between people who argue that information ought ot be free and that scraping content or user data is a perfectly legitimate business tactic, and people who are shocked, shocked [1]to discover that the government is not excluded from such activities.

1. per Captain Renault in Casablanca.

> "Obviously, this is being posted because”...

Or maybe it's part of someone showing off to someone else that they're part of the action.

A fantastic film, and with a great soundtrack to boot! I've listened to it far too many times after watching the film.

It's also a great San Francisco movie.

also, if you live in the sf bay area, it has a lot of cool location shots from that era.

I submitted the Netflix link last week but didn't comment in the discussion...I'll just chime in with this:

* Reportedly Gene Hackman's favorite role of all time

* Young pre-Star-Wars Harrison Ford plays a total asshole in this movie

* Great ending

* One of the 5 John Cazale movies (Fredo in Godfather)

* The movie Coppola had scripted a decade before, but had to wait until Godfather was a success before he could finally film it

* Competed with Godfather 2 for Best Picture (and lost)

* On Netflix Streaming (for U.S. customers) http://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/The-Conversation/60003586?fcld=...

It's a little slow for today's crowd, but really one of the best cinematic portrayals of paranoia and the surveillance state.

OT: John Cazale had the most astonishing career of any actor ever. Six years, five movies, five nominees for Best Picture (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, Deer Hunter), three winners. And then he died. Just a remarkable life.

The Conversation is one of the classics of 70s cinema, really worth a watch. To match today's paranoid times, Tony Scott's spiritual successor film "Enemy of the State" is also worth a watch. It's updated more as a star vehicle / action flick, but it's also pretty good. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemy_of_the_State_(film)

Hackman plays the same character, really. It's not in the same league as The Conversation, but it is a really fun double-feature companion.

If you like analog electronics and reel-to-reel tapes, this movie is like pornography.

There's just something about those Nagras.

The more you know about surveillance, the more paranoid you become. And I don't mean paranoid in a derogatory way, but the more you know about these things, the more you have to sacrifice some of the easier things in life because you are spending more time making sure everything is private. The phrase "ignorance is a bliss" never matched anywhere else more perfectly.

Great movie BTW.

This was on the front page less than a week ago. It's technically not a repost, but it feels the same. While I am more tolerant of reposts of things that never made it to the front page, stuff like this makes me feel bad for HN as it indicates the arrival of one or more phenomena:

1. A reddit-like circle jerk where the same stuff gets posted and the same conversations are had multiple times.

2. A reddit-like contingent of karma whores who repost stuff just to get votes.

3. A goldfish-like memory in HNers where they forget what happened just a short while ago.

The multiple posts about the same thing happen often when big stories break(Snowden's first leak, Steve Jobs death, Apple releases product iXYZ, etc.), but I'm noticing it now with some smaller stories, and it is frustrating.

My proposal is that the mods police these posts (I know they're watching, titles get changed all the time), and keep the front page fresh. When a big story breaks, maybe create a meta post- a "Snowden related links go here" post and when people outside of that official post they are either merged in or deleted. I realize it would require substantial changes to HN to add a meta post type and change the decay algorithm to account for a meta post.

Go ahead and downvote, but I figured I'd offer up an idea (that probably isn't original) instead of just complaining.

I speculate that re-posts get voted to the front page because the users who are voting on them didn't see them the first time around.

The fraction of HN users that see a post on average depends on how long a typical post stays on the front page and on how often a typical HN user checks HN. I don't know what those parameters are, but I think it's plausible that a typical HN user sees fewer than half of all front-page posts, in which case it wouldn't be surprising for there to be some re-posts.

If something changed about those statistics--for example, perhaps more posts per hour leads to a typical story staying on the front page for a shorter time--then that could account for an increase in the number of re-posts.

Also, I'm not sure that there is actually a trend towards more re-posts on HN. It seems like the kind of thing that would be easy to mis-estimate.

I had no idea this had been posted already. I happened to watch it last night, and wasn't recommended it by anyone in the tech community - it had been on my watchlist for a while because I like Gene Hackman.

Sorry about the double post, but try to remember not everyone is glued to the HN front page or only doing things on recommendation from others :)

The best solution to prevent this from happening may be Stack Overflow style: suggest to the OP while posting the link that it has already been posted fairly recently and perhaps their comments would be better off in that thread.

What I liked about The Conversation is that it showed you how the spy grid affects the ones working for it. At least, those who still have some sort of conscience left and haven't been completely swamped by cognitive dissonance.

The ending was very powerful.

> [Gene Hackman's] office is enclosed in wire mesh in a corner of a much larger warehouse

Neat. Gene Hackman's office in Enemy of the State is identical.

The Conversation is just perfect. It's worth a watch for sure. While we're thinking about surveillance themed films, The Lives of Others comes to mind as a strong recommendation:


"He'd kill us if he got the chance." "He'd kill us if he got the chance." "He'd kill us if he got the chance." "He'd kill us if he got the chance."

The line actually changes - it was recorded twice, once with each emphasis. Coppola expressed regret about the decision, since he also considered just using one take of the line and allowing the audience to imagine the different inflections.

Check out Sneakers, great crypto-thriller.


Meh, that's a kid's film. A fun kid's film, but still.

Wut. That is one of the best "hacker" movies that has come out of Hollywood. Great film.

I don't agree. The McGuffin (the decryptor chip) is magic, the ethical conundrums are juvenile. It's teenage wish fulfilment for liberal geeks (and I say that as a liberal geek); a high-tech version of the Blues Brothers and just about every gang-of-mistfits-thwart-horrible-landlord film.

Sorry, but I saw it in the theater when it came out and it was just a total let-down - not my idea of a serious film at all.

There aren't many better examples from Hollywood out there, so we have to take what we can get...

Wim Wenders 'The End of Violence' (1997) belongs in the category of tastefully executed cryto-thrillers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_Violence

For anyone wanting to watch this tonight, I can hint that attempting to encode 1080p movie at 1824 kbps results pretty horrid image quality.

Thanks, my evening was looking fairly grim before this!

Yep, great movie.

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