Of Conversations, Spying and the Movies


By Richard Lutz


What with US snoops checking out just which ally was saying what over private mobiles, you just have to go back to the movies to get the full,paranoid fearful surge of overwhelming surveillance.

The best film to attack electronic spying is The Conversation. Gene Hackman is Harry Caul, the best bugging expert in San Francisco. On a routine job, he thinks he picks up hints of a planned murder.

He listens and re-listens to his garbled tapes,of extraneous sound,until he almost goes mad and thinks he is witness to the killing of a government spy chief.

Hackman’s Harry Caul (Hairy Call?) is obsessive, semi paranoid and caught in a delusional world of half truths. One of the final lines in this Francis Ford Coppola film is when Caul realises he himself is the victim of bugging. He rips up his flat looking for the device and receives a phone call. It’s from a government spying agency, a mid seventies version of the now infamous NSA.

The voice says:’We’ll be listening.’

And they still are. More than 60m calls and messages were intercepted from Spain alone last year. Doesn’t leave much time for a spy’s leisure time, does it?

The Conversation has a fine cast…Hackman, Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall and Cindy Williams just off The American Graffiti set.

Watch it..and remember, someone is probably watching you.