In this DVD, you get a film geek’s wet dream. Two very good film commentaries. One by Francis Coppola. The other by Walter Murch. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to two commentaries and thought they were both worth listening to, let alone, that they enriched my knowledge of movies.
Coppola is actually a very good at DVD commentaries. Even for his later films, like “Tetro” (which isn’t an amazing movie, but you learn a lot from him speaking). In “The Conversation”, you learn that this is the kind of film Coppola wanted to make a career out of, and not the grandiose ones he was known for (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now). The career he envies most is Woody Allen’s, for making small, personal films, though you also get the feeling Coppola liked his position. He was after all the most commercial director and most artistically respected director on Earth simultaneously.
I don’t know if any director can boast this in the history of movies. I recall Coppola describing why a sound editor (who was played by Gene Hackman) was such a fascinating topic for a film. Coppola saw the “process” was fascinating. He emphasized that people were transfixed by a process, in the caveman sense. To watch someone make something or build something is innate and primal. In movies, watching a “process” is gold.
On Murch’s end, he talks about how Coppola basically left him the movie to edit without supervision, because had to go make “The Godfather, Part II”. Murch essentially was the co-director of “The Conversation” though he never even implies this. Rather, he talks about how every director is different, and Francis is the type who likes to hire department heads and lets them run with it. Murch speaks in detail about the sound design, making certain characters “vague” through editing (essentially allowing the audience to interpret if they’re good or evil) and what great actors like Hackman and John Cazale can offer an editor. Both are great film minds. But what makes a great director (particularly on the scale of a Coppola) is the team he assembles. Even Hitchcock wasn’t great anymore when he lost his team. Coppola was a leader, who was as good as his soldiers.
Written by: Norith Soth