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EXCERPT: The Conversation

By PETER KEOUGH  |  October 31, 2008

Sound advice, but it ultimately fails Caul, and Coppola as well. As Caul’s preoccupation with detail and secrecy and his fetishistic sexual nature (the shot of him in bed still in his raincoat embracing  Teri Garr wearing white socks has to be the saddest love scene in movies) indicate, Caul’s an obsessive-compulsive with a guilty streak as big as Union Square. Certain moments in the conversation —  the man’s plaintive “he’d kill us if he had a chance,” the woman reflecting “he was once somebody’s baby boy” while gazing at a wino lying on a bench who bears more than a passing resemblance to Caul himself — unnerve him. They remind him of another assignment in which he astounded his peers by his solution to a daunting challenge and where he didn’t question who he was doing it for or why and, well, what happened afterwards wasn’t Harry’s fault.

But, true professional that he is, Harry takes his finished tape to his client, and for truly professional reasons, refuses to hand them over because the conditions of the contract were not being exactly filled. And then he refuses because his conscience and his interpretation of the narrative presented by the tapes refuse to allow him to. And then it’s too late, and Caul is left in futile search of the heart of darkness in the solitude of his stark apartment, a microcosm of the green vastness in which Coppola would lose himself in his ultimate B-Movie, Apocalypse Now.

From The B List edited byDavid SterrittandJohn Anderson.  Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Press (www.dacapopress.com), a member of the Perseus Books Group.  Copyright © 2008.

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