It’s been a while, but I’m planning my next film -club discussion now. It will centre on two celebrated thrillers by two of the major American directors of the 1970s, the “kids with beards” generation: Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma. Both these films are about different kinds of audio surveillance: about listening to sounds and trying to piece together a narrative, or solve a mystery.
The Conversation (1974) – with Gene Hackman as a very reclusive and paranoid surveillance expert trying to figure out if some of his recordings reveal the planning of a murder.
Coppola made this film in between the first two Godfather films, and while it is nowhere near as widely seen as those movies, it got a fair deal of critical attention when it came out, along with a best picture Oscar nomination. (It lost to The Godfather Part II!)
Blow Out (1981) – with John Travolta as a sound man for cheap C-grade films, who gets caught up in a political conspiracy when he inadvertently records the sound of a car accident that kills a governor.
(As some of you might know, De Palma is one of my favourite directors. This film has his trademark cheekiness, technical virtuosity and even his unapologetic appetite for sleaze – don’t miss the opening sequence which is a parody-tribute to the teen-slasher film involving horny youngsters – though it’s also a political thriller and a coming-of-age story.)
Anyone who'd like to drop in for the discussion (it will be sometime next week) or would like to just watch the films, mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll send across the G Drive links. And if anyone has suggestions for other similar films to watch for this chat, let me know. (Antonioni’s Blow-Up is one obvious name. There is also Sidney Lumet’s The Anderson Tapes. And more tangentially, the Oscar-winning German film The Lives of Others. And there are lots of political/journalistic thrillers from the 1970s, including The Parallax View and All the President’s Men.)