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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Conversation [Blu-ray]

 

(Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Paramount

Video: Lionsgate

 

Disc:

Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:53:47.654

Disc Size: 49,329,125,956 bytes

Feature Size: 32,312,340,480 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.93 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 25th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3367 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3367 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1894 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1894 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentaries:

Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• New Interview with director Francis For Coppola and composer David Shire (10:57 in 1080P)
• New Discussion with Francis For Coppola about his early film exercise, "No Cigar" (2:26 in 1080i)
• Newly released “Harry Caul's San Francisco” featurette (3:43 in 1080P)
• Newly released Archival screen tests with Harrison Ford (6:45 in 1080P), Cindy Williams (5:02 in 1080P)
• Newly released 6-part Archival footage of Francis Ford Coppola dictating the original script (49:23 - in 1080P) plus Intro (:21 in 1080P)
Archival on-set interview with Gene Hackman (4:04 in 1080P)
“Close-up on THE CONVERSATION” featurette (8:39 in 1080P)
Audio commentary with director Francis Ford Coppola
Audio commentary with editor Walter Murch
Theatrical trailer (2:50 in 1080P)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Francis Ford Coppola’s provoking mystery/thriller stars Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, an expert surveillance man. A routine wiretapping job turns into a nightmare when Harry hears something disturbing in his recording of a young couple in a park. His investigation of the tape and how it might be used sends Harry spiraling into a web of secrecy, murder and paranoia. Set against the backdrop of San Francisco, THE CONVERSATION is a harrowing psychological thriller that costars Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest and Harrison Ford and symbolizes the uneasy line where technology and privacy cross.

 

 

The Film:

This is a Coppola gem, brooding and intense. Gene Hackman plays a "bugger" i.e., a private contract surveillance man, the best in the business. He's hired by the Director of an unnamed corporation (Robert Duvall) to record a conversation between the Director's wife and a young man in a public park. Hackman is troubled by the conversation and slips past his professional unconcern into fearfulness for the young couple's safety. The Director's assistant, played with appropriate relentlessness and menace by a youthful Harrison Ford, intensifies Hackman's anxiety and causes him unpleasant flashbacks to a contract he did which resulted in the death of three innocent people. The end is crushing, the unwinding of Hackman's character Harry Caul. Caul's very name hints at coverings, at shelters, at subterfuge and camouflage. Caul, the professional intimacy violator, is obsessed with protecting the cocoon of secrecy he believes he has created for himself. But from the beginning his privacy is doomed. One evening he return to his apartment, opens the three locks on the door and finds the landlady has left him a present for his birthday in his living room. Not only does she have keys to the apartment, but she has been opening his mail hence the discovery that it is his birthday. Caul is incensed; the caul has been ripped off his hermetically sealed existence. Through the course of the film he is humiliated by a sleazy competitor who tapes his private conversation with a woman using a tiny microphone inserted into a pen he has given Caul as a gift. The conversation he tapes is one of the two moments of willing self-revelation Caul gives us, the other being a description of his childhood spoken by him in a dream. Even in the dream sequence Caul's efforts to peel away the concealing layers that seal over his past are downright excruciating. In the end, believing his apartment is bugged, he rips the protective skin off every thing that has a covering or laminated surface on it: walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, ornaments, drapes, etc. His most painful moment comes when he forces himself to bash open a small figure of the Virgin Mary. It is the last thing he opens. Inside is nothing at all, she is hollow - a crushing commentary on his religion. He has been betrayed by colleagues, by lovers, and now, by Mary. There is nothing left, no place of shelter in his naked vulnerability.

Excerpt from Ramcharan's review located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Conversation is such a welcome film to receive the Blu-ray treatment. What with Paramount exiting the older-film-to-digital market - Lionsgate is cited as the 1080P release agent. The image quality looks to be a significant improvement over the previous SD releases - but there is still some inconsistency that is inherent in the production source. In the better lit scenes wonderful textured grain is visible and detail is surprisingly sharp with makeup noticeable on actor's faces - via the 1080P presentation. There is some infrequent depth and the image is extremely clean. Skin tones are a little warm but seem natural. Contrast wavers at times almost achieving moiring in one spot near the conclusion looking a little thick and flat but is generally supportive of The Conversation. There is a modicum of digital noise but nothing fatal. In fact any weaknesses are all quite minor. The 1.85:1 film has been transferred at 1.78:1. Overall I would say this Blu-ray is a visual success. Most fans will be pleased.

 

Peter from our ListServ says : "...the transfer of THE CONVERSATION to Blu-Ray looks very weak in the color department. NOTHING at all like the 1974 IB Tech release prints, and my memory of the SD DVD was that it had a far more saturated look."

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

We get the option of a DTS-HD Master 5.1 bump at a healthy 3367 kbps or the original 2.0 channel stereo uncompressed at 1894 kbps. There was some keen separations in the Surround mix but I stuck with the latter track for the majority of my viewing and did note some depth and crispness with David Shire's score that haunts the film's many introspective moments. This is complimented by Duke Ellington, Harry M. Woods and more. The Ragtime piano-based theme is worked to perfection and this lossless audio transfer means a lot to the viewing experience. There are optional English and Spanish subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

It is wonderfully refreshing not to simply have to say 'nothing new in the way of supplements'. We get well over an hour's worth of extra beyond the DVD but the excellent commentaries - one from director Francis Ford Coppola, and another from editor Walter Murch - remain -as does the 4-minutes of archival on-set interview with Gene Hackman and 9-minute “Close-up on The Conversation” featurette - although both are available in 1080P. The new material includes a 50-minute 6-part archival footage of Francis Ford Coppola dictating the original script (with a brief intro) with heading such as 'The Life of Harry Caul' and 'Introduction to Frank Lovista', archival screen tests with Harrison Ford and Cindy Williams, “Harry Caul's San Francisco” featurette identifying shooting locales in the city by the Bay, a brief discussion with Francis For Coppola about his early film exercise, "No Cigar" and its subtle relationship to The Conversation and a new interview with David Shire by Coppola.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Conversation is a masterpiece that improves upon repeat viewing. I can easily say that this was the absolute best presentation of Coppola's 74' film that I have ever seen or heard. I'm very happy - especially how the penetrating audio track is represented on Blu-ray. The new extras are great to go through and this is an essential package in my opinion. Very strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

October 13th, 2011

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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