SHOT SEQUENCE--THE CONVERSATION
SCENE IN "PIONEER GLASS" VAN (4'26")
i. Harry in crowd, walking briskly, crosses street; camera pans left to follow. He approaches yellow van and knocks on rear door. 15"
ANN (VO): Oh, God. Every time I see one of those old guys, I always think the same thing.
MARK (VO): What do you think?
ANN: (VO): I always think that he was once somebody's baby boy.
1. Harry enters van at rear; Stan moves to foreground after letting him into the van. Harry sits down at left, camera moves slightly right to keep both men in MS. Harry looks screen right, then down. 16"
ANN (VO): I think he must have been somebody's baby boy and had a mother and a father who loved him, and there he is, half- dead on a park bench, and where are his mother and his father and all his uncles now?
2. CU (Insert) twin tape recorders, reels turning rapidly. 3"
ANN (VO): Anyway, that's what I always think.
3. Harry (LA MCU) stares pensively out window at left, very briefly. Then turns sharply screen right to look and speak. 2.5"
HARRY: How's he doing up there?
4. Stan (LA profile) reaches up to adjust a switch. 2"
MARK (VO): I always think how during the newspaper strike. . .
5. LA MS Large Neon Rooftop Sign reading "CITY PARIS Since 1850," small figure barely observable at its base. 9"
STAN (VO): We're getting better than 40%.
HARRY (VO): How about the second position?
Camera swish pans left from CITY PARIS to building where we see a figure (MLS) leaning out window holding something tubular pointing down. We hear indecipherable sounds.
6. Same as #4, Stan now facing front, then looks right and up, scowls. 2"
7. Same as #3, Harry looking at Stan, then folding hands, with face in folded hands staring out window. Indecipherable sounds. 4"
8. CU Mark laughing, moves towards Ann, camera following to try to bring her into frame, people passing behind. Bright sunlight and vibrant greens in contrast to gloom of van interior. He moves left with Ann, camera panning to keep them in CU. Their conversation can only be heard as indecipherable electronic signals. 11"
9. Exterior of van. Two young women approach van from left. Approach mirrored window. 5"
STAN (VO): Uh Oh, what have we here?
10. Interior of van, blonde young woman framed in window to left, Stan foreground right, Harry in middle, both men staring at young woman. Stan picks up 35mm camera. 3"
STAN: OK you little babies, wet your lips there.
11. ECU Stan with camera, taking pictures left. 4"
STAN: All right, give me some tongue, just give me a little tongue there. Come on.
12. Exterior van, MS girls applying lipstick, their images mirrored in mirror-window. 2.5"
13. CU two young woman seen from inside the van, smiling with delight as they put on their lipstick. 3"
STAN (VO): C'mon, just a little tongue. Nice wet French kiss now.
14. Same as #10. Harry turns away from window and looks at Stan taking pictures and talking. 8.5"
STAN: C'mon, nice wet one there.
Harry points right and says:
HARRY: C'mon, pay attention to your recorder.
Harry turns back towards girls. Stan takes one more photo, sets camera down, looks to right and says:
STAN: Coming in loud and clear.
15. ECU Ann and Mark, camera has difficulty keeping both in frame. 6"
ANN: Look, Mark, do you see him, the man with the hearing aid like Charles?
MARK: No, where?
ANN: There, with the shopping bag.
They look, facing camera.
16. MS shopping bag, briefly obstructed by CU of a passerby's shirtfront and tie as he walks before camera. Camera tilts up to reveal Paul, as he folds up newspaper and hurries off. 7"
STAN (VO): Uh oh, that's it for Paul, they spotted him.
Harry (VO): Give me the phones.
ANN (VO): He's been following us . . .
17. Same as #14, Harry looking out window, Stan takes off headphones, passes them to Harry, looking down, shaking his head, chewing gum. 4"
ANN (VO): . . . all along.
MARK (VO): It's nothing . . .
18. Same as #7, Harry looking out window, listens to one ear of headphone. 2"
MARK (VO): Don't worry about it.
19. Same as #5, CITY PARIS neon sign, with dark figure. Hear sound of African drums and other indecipherable electronic noises. 3"
20. MS Mark and Ann speaking (unheard), walking among people, camera panning left to follow, Ann smiling and dancing slightly to drum music. Mark leans over and speaks to her and she looks at him as if taken aback; their conversation is unheard. 15"
21. Interior of van, Harry CU in foreground, Paul visible through rear door window looking around nervously, tapping on door. Harry starts to move. Sound of drums. 4.5"
22. Camera has pulled back slightly to reveal Harry opening door for Paul. He then moves back towards foreground, as does Paul. Harry removes box from Paul's shopping bag. LA Paul, Harry stooping, looking at Paul's box, Stan seated to right. Crowded in narrow space, Harry dominating in center. 22"
PAUL: I was burned, Harry. She looked at me.
HARRY: Yeah, yeah, I know. We heard.
STAN: Oh, did we hear.
HARRY: So what do you think?
PAUL: I think there are some good pieces, maybe 25%.
HARRY (eagerly): Oh yeah?
23. ECU box. Harry slides off cover to reveal tape recorder and microphone within. 3.5"
HARRY (VO): I'll call you again in a couple of days if I need you, OK?
24. Return to #22. Stan turns to look towards Paul. 26"
STAN: Hey Paul. You going to the convention tomorrow?
PAUL: You bet. (Pokes Harry) Hey, how about you, Harry?
HARRY: Yeah, maybe.
PAUL: We'll throw a party like we did two years ago, huh. Huh, Stan? (Stan chortles). I'll see you.
Paul opens back door and leaves, Harry hands an electronic box to Stan and closes door behind Paul.
STAN: Hee hee, he's a nice guy for a cop.
25. Ann and Mark MS walking away, centered in target crosshairs. They sit down. 12"
MARK (VO): (softly) You go. I'll stay here awhile.
STAN (VO): Who's interested in these two anyway?
HARRY (VO): I don't know for sure.
STAN (VO): Justice Department?
HARRY (VO): No.
26. Return to #14, Harry gazing out window, listening to one ear of headphone. 8.5"
STAN: Then I figure it must be the Infernal Revenue. Their tapes always put me to sleep.
HARRY: Since when are you here to be entertained? Here. (Hands him headphones.)
27. LA CU Stan, off-center left. 3"
STAN: Sometimes it's nice to know what they're talking about.
28. LA MCU profile Harry, gear visible behind him (same as #18), off-center right, chin resting on hands. 6.5"
HARRY: I don't care what they're talking about. (moistens lips, rubs chin) All I want is a nice, fat recording.
29. CU Mark and Ann embracing, Ann caressing his face, wedding band prominent on Ann's right hand. Passersby move to obstruct view of them. Piano sounds, low register, discordant chords that will continue into the last shot of the sequence. 4"
30. Ann rushing away, moving right, camera tracking to follow. 4.5"
31. Mark briefly looking right, turns to move left, slowly, tossing paper bag slightly, pensive. 5.5"
32. LA man at window of #5, LA MLS, as he leans back in room, disappearing from our view. 5"
33. Exterior of yellow van as it pulls slowly right, to join traffic, revealing Harry standing on sidewalk, pulling off his raincoat. Haunting piano melody begins; it will continue as bridge to next sequence. Harry walks left slowly, alone among passersby, camera panning left to keep him in frame as he waits for bus to pass, then crosses street, away from us.
Dissolve to Harry entering door of his apartment building. 32"
The scene in the van, which is part of the opening sequence of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974), introduces us to the central character of the film, Harry Caul. It both sets in motion the plot of the film and, by means of its style, introduces some of the basic thematic conflicts that underlie it.
The sequence plays out the incident that will become the basis for the entire film--the conversation between the man and woman--which we will see replayed repeatedly throughout the film.
The sequence is initially full of a succession of question marks--Who are the central characters? Are the man and the woman the targets of an assassin? Who are these snoops, and for whom do they work?
We alternate between the point of view of the private eyes, seeing and hearing the couple as they are being filmed and recorded, and a more objective point of view that allows us to see the snoopers as they are snooping. By the end of the scene, the music lets us know that Harry is for some reason touched by what he is observing.
This scene uses the contrast between outside the van and inside the van (between watched and watchers) to emphasize the contrast between the sleaziness of the snoopers (in their dark, tight, claustrophobic, voyeuristic van) and the seeming freedom and innocent vitality of the lovers. This contrast between inside and outside will continue throughout the film, as Harry tries to leave his dark interior world for the bright sunlight of honesty and human decency.
We also see the seeds of conflict between Harry and Stan. Stan will try to bring Harry out of his shell, make him more human. Harry will resist. As the scene tells us, Harry, unlike Stan, is not interested in what the subjects are saying. All he wants is "a nice, fat recording." As the film develops, though, he will want much more. This will bring about his downfall--but perhaps ultimately his redemption.
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RETURN to ENG195 Page.