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Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Analysis Part II and III

Been a little under the weather—explained here.
Therefore no post yesterday, and hence here is a post worth two.

The wedding outside

The screen abruptly brightens with loud Tarantella music. Most of the exterior wedding scenes are shot verité style (Chown, 1988: 66). And the idea of an “Italian realism” is not very unlike what the audience would see in the works of Federico Fellini or more recently of Giuseppe Tornatore. The use of multiple cameras and cutting on the same axis are certainly reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa. The brightness of the scenes works in contrast with the dark interiors, and Pauline Kael (1975: 421) even compares this to the Catholic dualism of innocence versus knowledge. There is some form of music running throughout the wedding scenes, helping to maintain continuity over the random visual cuts, while a change of song is used to signify time lapse.

The device of the gathering for a family portrait gives the audience a clear idea of who’s who. This also sets up the scene with the absence of Michael: the black sheep in the family. The initial parts of the wedding scene also function as a sort of a roll call of characters—the “extended family”, and their acquaintances. Each person is introduced doing something typical of the character, and somebody or the other mentioning him by name. Yet, this does not come across as being tedious because of the choreography and the performance in the interspersed bit of “reality”. It looks almost as if somebody took a movie camera to an actual wedding. In dietician’s parlance, these non-narrative elements could be called roughage—that does not contain any nutrients, yet essential in digesting the other more substantial food.

The idea of the absent Michael, and the inherent tension between the Don and his son; the infidelity of Sonny and a tension between him and his wife; the hierarchy of Don, Caporegime and Buttonman; the looming presence of the law—the FBI; the arrival and presence of Don Barzini; the greed of Pauli Gatto; the Sicilian ritual of the seeking of the Don’s favours, and the anxiety of the seekers of favours; and Sonny’s hotheadedness are all explained with succinct dialogue or in quick snippets of action. The economy of the direction and the sensibility to spread these narrative/expository elements among the “roughage’” is fascinating. Also to be noted is that the flurry of activity on screen catches the audience in such a fast moving stream, that no one bothers to find any of this exposition trite. When talking about pacing, Pauline Kael (1975: 425) says that it is only the “clever and careless director” who goes too fast, thinking that the audience would catch up; the assumption being that “complexity will engage the audience”.

Nazorine the baker
The second time we see the Don’s office, it somehow appears more cordial. A light music is heard in the background. It seems brighter and the Don is smiling. The ensuing dialogue has two words, “friend” and “Godfather”, two words that Bonasera could not come to use. The Don also moves to the window and raises the blinds towards the end of this scene, signalling a lightening up.

Michael’s introduction
Michael is introduced, as again somebody mentions his name. He is dressed as an all American hero, in his army uniform, in the very form of the forces his father is so disdainful about. His WASP girlfriend is in red, and they dance, not to Italian music, but to a very American “Everytime I look into your Eyes”. Significantly, this happens as the Don looks at his son through the blinds in his office thereby reinforcing the tension set-up between father and son.

The conversation between Tom and the Don in the office is cut between this brief introduction of Michael and Kay, and the more elaborate dialogue sequence with them. This not only allows for the time lapse between them dancing and them eating, but also acts as a bridge to introduce Luca Brasi, who is a part of the conversation. Michael and Kay mention each other’s names in the conversation more than once. Tom Hagen is also properly introduced, but before he exits he talks about his father looking for Michael—further strengthening the father-son confrontation.

Luca Brasi
Back in the office, Luca Brasi stands before the Don seriously, pours out his rehearsed lines and does not call him godfather. The Don was initially reluctant to see him; there is obvious tension in the air; and there are no other background sounds: it was intended to be shot this way in order to show Luca’s character as a cold-blooded and dreaded assassin, but Lenny Montana’s (the actor) lack of confidence in front of Brando, served the director with the image of a bumbling character. The facts of the improvisation made while shooting this is explained in Jeffrey Chown’s book (1988: 79). The idea of Luca rehearsing in the earlier scene (shot later to accommodate the eventual realisation of the scene in the office), and the children running in disturbing the seriousness of this adult-word, makes this comical—standing testament to the improvisation skills of the director.

7:11 pm


Comments to Analysis Part II and III

Pretty nice analysis, though I would have preferred something which appreciated the tone and gestures that made the movie a lot of what it is today. Like when the Don matter-of-factly tells the photographer to wait, because he wanted Michael to be there too. A simple statement which reveals his credo. A lot others too (I don't want a comment to become a post in itself).
You atleast have one person interested in your analysis FTTB.

BTW, haven't heard of many people talk about Kurosawa off late in India. Glad to find reason to keep hope within tether's length.

posted by Blogger Eroteme 

12:43 pm, January 31, 2005

Thanks Eroteme! It would be nice if you put down whatever you wanted to say in your own blog. Would be happy to read it!

posted by Blogger Anand 

7:28 pm, January 31, 2005

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