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The Conversation [UK Release] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, LPCM 2.0 Stereo, LPCM Mono, German LPCM 2.0 Stereo
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Subtitles: English, German
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certification: 12
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: StudioCanal
  • Run Time: 114 Mins.
  • Blu-ray Release Date: October 31, 2011
  • RRP: £22.99

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B004OQJSDG[/amazon-product]

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

A gripping Orwellian thriller from  Coppola’s 70’s heyday, The Conversation is a paranoid masterpiece that would fit perfectly into today’s connected world where privacy is quickly becoming an archaic concept.

The story of Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) a security expert and spy who values his privacy above all else, probably because of his eavesdropping day job, who takes on an assignment from a mysterious client known simply as, “the director” (Robert Duvall) to record two people having a conversation. Heavy with guilt from a previous assignment that resulted in people’s death, Harry becomes obsessed with this new case, and soon surmises that the woman from the conversation (Cindy Williams) is the director’s wife and the man (Frederic Forrest) one of his employees, and that the director is planning to have them killed. Harry then decides to try to save them himself, which drags him further into a complex web of intrigue.

The Conversation is right up there with other classic slow-burning thrillers like The French Connection or Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows as a film that must be seen.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

I had the fortune of being able to view this StudioCanal release and the US release from Lionsgate back-to-back. At first, both 1080p/24 AVC/MPEG-4 transfers seemed almost identical to me, but the longer I allowed this release to play, the more I realized it didn’t quite hold up to the Lionsgate release. The Lionsgate release isn’t perfect, it has a tendency toward heavy graininess at times and it has been opened to a fullscreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio – yikes! This StudioCanal is at the proper theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, though it does lose just a little bit of the additional image information that the opened matte of the US release has. As far as the overall image quality, it looks very film-like, but contrast isn’t as good as the Lionsgate release and the image isn’t as dark overall. It is paler, with colors showing much less vividness and flesh tones looking somewhat pallid. It also looks to have had grain reduced slightly more than its US counterpart. It isn’t a “smoothie” by any means, but it does look just tad smoother.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

StudioCanal offers three English versions of the soundtrack – a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless mix and the original monaural theatrical mix in LPCM as well as a LPCM 2.0 Stereo mix. Additionally there is a German LPCM 2.0 Stereo mix available. All three English mixes have their strengths; the 5.1 mix is fuller, just as on the US Lionsgate release, with more atmosphere and better sense of directionality, but the monaural mix is still the superior version to my ears. Surprisingly enough, I heard much more clipping in the dialogue on this UK release than I did on the US release and the clipping carried over to all three English versions. I did not test the German dub.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

This release is loaded with supplements, all in high definition, including many archival featurettes and screen tests, plus lots of interviews with Coppola himself and, of course, the audio commentary with the legendary director. Videophiles and collectors might also like to know that this StudioCanal release and the Lionsgate release share the identical supplements, with the notable exception that the “No Cigar” featurette appears at 1080p/24 here and in 1080i/60 on the Lionsgate release.

The supplements provided with this release are:

  • Audio commentary with director Francis Ford Coppola
  • Audio commentary with editor Walter Murch
  • Close-Up on “The Conversation” (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:08:39) – Archival making of featurette with Coppola and Gene Hackman.
  • Cindy Williams Screen Test (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:05:02)
  • Harrison Ford Screen Test (1.33:1; 108p/24; 00:06:45)
  • “No Cigar” (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:02:26) – Coppola talks about his early short film.
  • Harry Caul’s San Francisco — Then and Now (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:43) – This montage shows a comparison of the locations in the film between 1973 and the present (2011).
  • David Shire Interviewed by Francis Ford Coppola (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:10:57) – Coppola interviews the composer of the film’s score, David Shire, in this brief, but interesting segment.
  • Archival Gene Hackman Interview (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:04:04) – An on-set interview with Hackman from February 12, 1973.
  • Script Dictations from Francis Ford Coppola:
    • Introduction
    • Opening Sequence
    • The Life of Harry Caul
    • The Convention
    • Introduction to Frank Lovista
    • Jack Tar Hotel
    • Police Station Ending
  • Theatrical Trailer (1.85:1; 1080p/24)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

Another Coppola classic arrives on Blu-ray in an excellent package with a solid transfer. If you’ve never seen The Conversation or if you have and you love it, then this will definitely suffice if you must get a Region B disc, but my advice to anyone with a region-free or Region A capability is to go for the better looking (and sounding) Lionsgate release.

Additional Screen Captures


[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B004OQJSDG[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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