Colloquium | David Copenhafer

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 12:00pm

David Copenhafer

Sonic Epistemology in Touch of Evil and The Conversation

In “Sonic Epistemology,” I explore the significance of audio surveillance in two classic films, Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. When asked if he has recorded enough evidence to incriminate a police officer, the investigator in Touch of Evil claims he has “more than enough” on tape. In the first half of my talk, I take this claim seriously and try to imagine how a jury, if played the surveillance tape, might interpret the sonic evidence divorced from its visual referent. In the second half of the talk, I try to show how The Conversation picks up where Touch of Evil leaves off while it, nevertheless, combines sound and image in a unique way. The Conversation puts great emphasis on re-winding and on repetitive listening as an attempt to gain mastery over sound. For the protagonist/investigator, Harry Caul, this retroversion does not lead to mastery but to greater depths of violence and confusion.

Cinema Studies Program
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