There are certain films that hold a unique place in history… and
Hollywood had better keep their grubby, remaking mitts off of them!
While the trend to “re-imagine” or “re-envision” everything around them
has been going on for some time, these films have so far managed to
escape the fate of some of their less fortunate compatriots. I speak of
course of…

SACRED COWS
The 25 Movies They’d Better Never Remake.

These films are not just near and dear to our hearts, they should be
considered OFF-LIMITS to those jerks at the studios. The films on this
list were special when they premiered and continue to be so today, and
we’re going to explain why they shouldn’t be remade – as well as why
they can’t be. So enough jabbering, on with the list!

Day Six
 
The Conversation (1974)


DIRECTED BY: Francis Ford Coppola
WRITTEN BY: Francis Ford Coppola
STARRING: Gene Hackman

THE SACRED RUNDOWN



“I don’t care what they’re talking about, all I want is a nice, fat recording.”

Produced in between the first two Godfather films, The Conversation is Francis Ford Coppola’s underseen and underloved masterpiece that re-wrote the rules on what sound could do for cinema. It also tells a pitch-perfect story of paranoia, isolation, and the death of privacy well before those first modem sounds of an AOL connection rang in the new age of hyper-connectivity. Rooted deeply in the analog world of surveillance, spy gear, and distance audio recording, it’s a movie very specifically rooted in its time, despite playing with themes that only grow in importance.

THE REASON IT’S SACRED



There is certainly room for other surveillance films (in fact, The Lives of Others in particular shook up the world upon its debut), but it would be silly to try and replicate such a quiet, precise film like The Conversation, especially when you consider its fortuitous release date that brought it in close proximity to the Nixon Watergate scandal. So close that many in the public figured it was produced with that scandal in mind (it wasn’t). Walter Murch’s operatic sound design is absolutely immaculate, and tells the story as strongly as any specific shot. The recording around which the film centers becomes a character in its own right, floating in and out of Harry’s life in ways both diegetic and completely dream-like. Gene Hackman does perhaps the best work of his career as the isolated, guilt-ridden social self-outcast who is brilliant at surveillance and utterly incompetent at interaction.

It must be noted that there is absolutely a modern take on The Conversation to be made (in fact, many people were expecting just such a film out of The Social Network, only to be disappointed), but to take this little masterpiece apart and remake it is a modern film would misunderstand the perfect blend of elements that make it what it is. As much as the surveillance backdrop makes for an interesting feature, it is the unique, irreplaceable performance from Hackman that centers it. The fingerprint of this particular classic, and couldn’t have been made in any other era. 



ICONIC MOMENTS
  • The opening surveillance opera. Haskell Wexler’s contribution to the film before being fired.
  • Hackman struggling like a child with Ford for the tapes.
  • Harry’s failure to even build up to a proper rant at Stan.
  • The bugger’s convention that shows how pervasive and intense the technology is, immediately after Harry makes himself a target. We even see a camera switch from one character directly onto Harry during the scene.
  • The awkward sexual moments.
  • A wonderful dream sequence where Harry blurts out his childhood among his current anxieties. A perfect way to deliver character background, earned by the film’s subtle delivery of character traits throughout the first part of the film.
  • Harry’s investigation in the hotel room, and the shrieks of the soundtrack.
  • The Shining toilet.
  • The search for the bug in Harry’s home, and him playing Sax among the pieces.
WHY A REMAKE WOULD MAKE ME RUN OFF SCREAMING

I dunno about screaming, but aside from the handful of filmmakers (and sound designers) that I could envision having a truly groundbreaking take on the same material, nothing would disappoint me more than to see this film recycled, when something original and uniquely timely would be so much more valuable.

WHAT WOULD PLATINUM DUNES DO (WWPDD)?




Michael Bay’s been producing remakes all over town, using his Platinum
Dunes company as a front. So naturally he’d be the logical choice to
spearhead any attempt at remaking this classic. How would it pan out,
you ask?

  • Will Smith cast in the lead as a action-inclined palatable badass. Hackman returns in winking cameo.
  • The technology would all be heightened to the point of magic, and be aimed at the protagonists.
  • Car chases and cell phones!
  • Instead of just the paranoid tearing down of his walls and floorboards, Harry would blow up his goddamn house.

Oh, wait. Shit. Well, barring all of that…

  • Harry Caul would be given the much less subtle thematic name of Harry Cellular Dedicated-Geosynchronous-Satellite-Enabled Telephone– or maybe just Harry Sext.
BOVINE MISCELLANY

The score for the film was apparently recorded independently of the film, with the piano tracks being stretched and accentuated by distorted versions of the same tracks. It creates a classic, almost peppy tone for the music, while still feeling modified and untrustworthy.


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