The Conversation is Francis Ford Coppola’s sixth film as a director, and something of a departure in a career which seems to grow not more but less easy to pin down. Beginning in 1962 with a low-budget horror film for Roger Corman (Dementia 13, a potboiler with some genuinely eerie effects), Coppola’s films have included a prototypical with-it youth movie (You’re a Big Boy Now, 1967), a big-budget musical (the 1968 Finian’s Rainbow, which I haven’t seen), an extremely fine but financially unsuccessful small film (, 1969), and what remains, until The Exorcist overtakes it, the biggest money-maker in American movies in his 1972 The Godfather: all interspersed with work writing scripts for other directors (Is Paris Burning?, Patton, The Great Gatsby) that enabled him to survive as a director despite his not having had a popular success until The Godfather turned him into not only a force to be reckoned with in the industry but a veritable tycoon. (Interspersed also are his playing an avuncular role in the career of George Lucas, the director of American Graffiti, and a certain restless involvement in activities other than films: staging a work for the San Francisco Opera, directing a production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, creating a little-theater repertory company.) In prospect is Coppola’s sequel to The Godfather, whose commercial success seems guaranteed (while, on the other hand, it appears his reputation will be less sullied than most by the critical debacle of The Great Gatsby); yet Coppola speaks dissatisfiedly of following his sequel to The Godfather with a period of retirement. And 6: now there is The Conversation.
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