The Conversation (1974)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Surveillance expert Harry Caul is hired by a mysterious client's brusque aide to tail a young couple. Tracking the pair through San Francisco's Union Square, Caul and his associate Stan manage to record a cryptic conversation between them. Tormented by memories of a previous case that ended badly, Caul becomes obsessed with the resulting tape, trying to determine if the couple is in danger.

That the film hadn’t actually been inspired by Watergate or the Nixon tapes didn’t matter. In a moment when surveillance tech was becoming interwoven into every aspect of daily life, The Conversation quickly became a conversation piece—an allegory about the collapsing gap between a generation’s public and private lives. [N]o matter how many careers Coppola has, he’s unlikely to match the potency of [its] coda: The manic yet methodical energy with which Harry goes about (literally) dismantling his own little corner of the world—in search of a bug that may or may not exist—provides an indelible image of physical and psychological ruin. A heartbreaking, blood-chilling glimpse of the expert (or maybe the artist) as a helpless, compulsive prisoner of his own devices.

Adam Nayman (The Ringer)