hackman stars as a surveillance expert in this academy award nominated f.f. coppola film. it reminds me of depalma’s blow-out (based upon antonioni’s blow-up) in the way it features a central charcter trying to reconstruct an event in an attempt to solve a mystery by using his craft. the use of sound and music are quite good here. coppola’s command of tension and suspense is also worth note. i think it’s an especially relevant film because of the watergate issue since it focuses on themes of surveillance, secrecy, and privacy.
hackman justifies his work by saying he’s just doing his job, that he has no control over what his clients do with his surveillance tapes once he gives it to them, yet he clearly exhibits signs of guilt over some of his past (and present) work. and he spirals into near insanity when he is the one who is being watched in the end. coppola’s security camera style shot at the end works well towards this effect.
it’s a solid film, one worthy of plenty of analysis, but the ambiguous ending and seemingly illogical story left me disappointed. without giving things away – the precise roles of important characters is left entirely unanswered and i can’t figure out what coppola intended. then i found this: “In an interesting book by Michael Ondaatje called The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, (Vintage Canada/Random House, 2002), Murch says in an interview with Ondaatje that the twist was not part of the original plan for the movie. He goes on to explain that due to the challenges of making the recording in Union Square, he took Frederic Forrest and Cindy Williams to an isolated park and made several recordings of the conversation while they strolled alone. On one of the takes, Forrest (either on purpose or by accident) changes the voice emphasis from “kill” to the word “us.” At the time it was regarded as a mistake, but months later during the film editing, they decided to use the line in the picture.” so it turns out that coppola may very well have not had the plot pieces lining up at all. to me that just smacks of laziness. he wants to make a certain impression, but might not even have a feasible plot worked out? lame. edit: here’s the crux of my complaint: if coppola’s motive is similar to 1984’s then these plot holes distract from his point. as you can see i’m obsessing more over the inconsistencies of the plot than of the message the film is trying to convey. that is a direct result of coppola’s inability or unwillingness to sharpen up some of the plot details.