Thursday, July 17, 2014

Olde Review, Part III: The Godfather

Part 1
Part 2

When last we left, we were discussing Coppola's editing, specifically during moments of suspense and violence. Up ahead there be more style, some sound, and...spoilers, so if you haven't seen this film and want to with some element of surprise, be warned. I have not fixed any errors (and there are far too many! *sob*) and the film professor's comments are in RED

(The Woltz bedroom scene) is the last sequence of its kind in the film, for although Coppola doesn't hedge on the rest of the comparable bloodshed, the rest of the violent scenes are done differently. In the Woltz sequence, Coppola slowly "fades in" to the gore, but once it has been shown, "cuts out" rapidly with a series of quick cuts. But, for the rest of the film he leads into the bloodshed with shows of rapid-fire editing. There is an aesthetic reason for this in that Woltz slowly discovers that bleeding head, whereas the rest of the violence happens all too quickly. 


The people who are afflicted realize only at the last moment what is going to happen to them. For example: the Don buys fruit; we see approaching feet; then, the film cuts back to the Don, who begins to run; back again to the feet, which pick up speed; cut to an overhead shot as the thugs those feet belong to, fire on the Don; another scene is inserted of Fredo getting out of the car, fumbling with his gun; cut back to the overhead shot as the thugs fire and flee. The whole thing takes eighteen seconds. When Sonny is shot up, when Appolonia is killed in the car explosion, and, in an even more extreme example, during the baptism-murder sequence, when Coppola shows a detailed record of a baptism, and shows five intricate gangland killings from start to finish, rapid editing is used. But Coppola doesn't even need the horrifying images he uses in these sequences to create tension. When Michael is at the hospital, fearing an attack on his recuperating father, he hears footsteps echoing through the halls. Coppola, through a series of shots of the sterile hospital corridor and different-angled shots of its angled staircase, creates great tension in the viewer, which is relieved, finally, when it is found that it is Enzo, the baker, merely trying to visit the Don. For the aware viewer, Coppola gives suspense by showing minute reactions of the characters, as when Sollozzo notices Sonny's interest in the heroin racket when the Don meets with him, and also, during Luca Brasi's fatal meeting with, again, Sollozzo,as the "Turk" looks beyond the mass of Luca Brasi, just before Brasi is strangled by an unseen attacker behind his back.
There is a lot of good cinema in The Godfather, more than could be touched on in a paper of this length. Personally, I feel it's an excellent film, and there are many parts of it, that I haven't mentioned, that I truly love: when Michael stands beside his father's bed in the hospital, guarding him, pledging, "I'm with you now" with the Don's reply consisting of his labored breath, saddened smile, and a small tear running from his eye; the talk in the garden between Michael and the newly-retired Don, with Mafia strategy in between talk of family and the Don's remembrances and his regret-filled "I never meant this for you" ; and , of course, the scene of the Don's death while playing with his grandson, a scene of playful joy and mirth, and of peaceful termination. These are exceptional moments in the film that move me every time I see them. But my favorite scene, curiously, is at the end of the film, as Kay, now Michael's wife, prepares a drink for them after he has allowed her, just once, to ask him about his business. She is in the foreground of the shot, he is in the background, inside his office, framed in the doorway. As she looks on, Clemenza, Hagen, and Michael's bodyguard enter the door-frame. Coppola cuts to a closer view of that doorway as Clemenza kisses Michael's hand in the manner due to a Godfather, and respectfully calls him "Don Corleone." The music on the soundtrack swells, and as Hagen, in the same manner, kisses Michael's hand, the bodyguard moves towards the door. Coppola then cuts to a view from inside the room, looking out at Kay, as she looks worriedly at the camera. The blackness of the closing door moves across the frame and closes, cutting off the music, and Kay, leaving her separated and apart.* It is a melancholy scene: full of personal triumph and personal tragedy. As such, it reflects the film.
Ok. And much more than ok ----easily the best paper handed in. There is some very sensitive writing here, obviously preceded by even more sensitive observation. You make me want to see G1 again.
And that last line is the biggest compliment any person who writes about movies can get, especially considering the professor wasn't too keen on The Godfather. As it was, later in the year, Coppola released his follow up, The Godfather, Part II and Jameson's review of it was laudatory, scattering many images from Part II throughout his "Moments Out of Time" series for that year.

Richard Jameson writes about movies for the Queen Anne News, MSN and Film Comment magazine, which he edited for many years. You owe it to yourself to seek out his reviews.

Me, I write about movies on this lousy blog...

Oh. I got a 4.0 for the class.

* Which links it with other outsiders left behind blackened doors, like in The Searchers.
But, there was more. There were scenes filmed (to be inserted after the Don's shooting) of Mama Corleone hearing the news and stoically going to church to light candles for the Don's soul (there's a photo of it in the bi-fold of the soundtrack album).

At the end of The Godfather a scene of Kay lighting candles in a completely blackened church (for Michael's soul) was to run over the credits (and was used, interestingly enough, at the end of NBC's broadcast of "The Godfather Saga" that combined Parts I and II in chronological order. indicating that Kay was still lighting candles for him after their violent break-up...seems odd).

It's at least as interesting to wonder why it wasn't used...maybe it was too soon after the events of the ending to go to another scene of Kay...maybe because it was an indication that Kay is resigned to her husband's life, which wouldn't do...maybe they just wanted to leave it on an ambiguous note, which sounds like Coppola--after all he did that in The Conversation, Apocalypse Now...but not Godfather III, where the issue of Michael's soul is of such high importance. Anyway, the Kay scene is an "Extra" on "The Godfather DVD."

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