Conceived in the mid-'60s but not released 'til 1974 (after the Watergate break-in), it took the huge success of The Godfather to get Paramount to stump up the readies for this spare, scrupulous thriller.
The Conversation zooms in on "expert eavesdropper" Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), an intensely private man who's employed to track a secretive couple. The main thread of the movie involves his painstaking attempts to piece together the jumbled recording of a hushed conversation...
From this slight premise - - the aural equivalent of Michelangelo Antonioni's similarly themed Blow-Up - - Coppola meticulously crafts a searing portrait of loneliness, paranoia and guilt, Harry slowly allowing himself to become involved only to have his own cloak of obsessive privacy ripped away.
The direction is measured and European in flavour; the camerawork innovative, its mechanical pans resembling automated surveillance equipment; and the climax devastating, as downbeat as anything Alan J Pakula (Klute, The Parallax View) ever dreamt up. Interestingly, Hackman would twice go on to riff on the role of Harry: Arthur Penn's Night Moves (1975) contains rich, intriguing parallels, while Tony Scott's Enemy Of The State (1998) acts as some kind of jazzed-up, dumbed-down sequel.