Wednesday, January 26, 2005
As I don't think this is of any interest to many of you, I am not going to split it up any further and am just putting up the rest of the essay and bibliography.
C’e La Luna
Back to the wedding and there is more “roughage”, while the minor storylines like Sonny and his wife’s marital tensions is continued with evidence of his affair with one of the bridesmaids. One of the most memorable of the non-narrative “roughage” elements is the song—C'e la luna mezz'o mare, and the performance of the actors, especially Morgana King (Carmella ‘Mama’ Corleone) in it. The song is entirely in Italian and is fairly lengthy for something that the audience is not expected to understand; but it does two significant things. By showcasing something captured with verité style photography (multiple cameras and quick zooms), coupled with splendid performance making this naturalistic and therefore very enjoyable, it endears the audience with this “very real family”. The second thing it does is to foreshadow the idea that in this movie, language (in the dialogue) is not only for meaning generation, but also for sheer mood—as it would in the scene in the restaurant where Michael kills Solozzo and McCluskey (Michael and Solozzo have a protracted conversation in Italian shown without subtitles). Ordinarily, the presence of any unintelligible element would draw attention to itself. But if it is presented in such a way that the meaning is very apparent or really unimportant, spoken word plays the role of “musical” effects.2 (This can also can be used to explain Brando getting away with his “mumbling”)
Before the entry of Johnny Fontane, Tom and the Don’s dialogue about senators and judges being part of their circle, further establishes the connection of the family with “the outside world” as explained by Mason (2002: 130). After screams are heard outside, the dialogue mentions where Johnny is from and this immediately tell us that he is a movie star. Here, to be noted is the performance of Talia Shire (Connie Corleone). She is the bride, and the centre of attention at the wedding, but with the arrival of the star, she makes these exaggerated welcomes, hugs and runs with him, and while running turns back and looks at her peers with a childish sense of pride showing him off; and showing herself off as the one who is acquainted with the star.
The arrival of Johnny Fontane also allows the film to go back to Kay, who is also exited on seeing him. Johnny’s song, in English (and thereby the cheesy lyrics being intelligible) still plays the role of sound effect or music and not “words”, when it is relegated to the background as Michael speaks to Kay about Luca, Johnny’s bandleader and his father. The original script explaining Luca to Kay had details of Luca chopping off the legs of Al Capone’s men. This for one, is too gruesome and two, seems to be exaggerated and therefore possibly being an urban legend; but the story of the bandleader, though less gruesome, is much more believable. This makes the Don and Luca appear scarier than they would have with the first story. The director as writer can take credit for this. Eventually, the dialogue confirms Michael’s “outsider” status in the family when he says, “That’s my family, Kay. It’s not me.”
The story immediately shifts to the bandstand area where Johnny finishes his song, is feted by the crowd, and is received by the Don who seems to have an uncanny suspicion of his elder son’s whereabouts. This “cutaway” from the emotionally charged expressions of Michael and Kay helps keep the cut “on a high”, and because the “cutaway” has its own storyline and interest for the audience, enables the return to Michael and Kay at the table, but this time with them being in a lighter emotional state when Fredo is introduced as the drunk and weak brother.
Unlike all the other seekers of favours, Johnny is dressed in white and sitting on the table, he is the godson—The favoured one, who in the entire film, has the least problems with the Don. But the star of the previous scene is whining and complaining. It looks almost comical. This is intercut with Sonny playing “comedy with the girl” (according to the Don). After Tom leaves Sonny and Lucy banging against the door, there is a brief cutaway to the exterior where a formally dressed woman is operatically singing. Then we cut back to Johnny whining at the table. But the Don does not like opera or melodrama. (The cutaway to the opera also functions as “roughage” in between the nutrients) The Don mocks melodrama and imitates Johnny. He prefers the stricter, less freewheeling family life when he indirectly chastises his own son for his sexual intransigence (Chown, 1988: 68). The sounds in the background are family sounds. When the door is opened for Johnny, one can see family activity and hear a baby crying as well. This is the domain of Don Vito Corleone.
The End of the sequence
Outside, the marriage continues with Nazorine the baker paying his dues with a huge cake. It is evident from the fact that the cuts to the wedding are shorter and shorter, that the sequence is about to end. In his office, the Don is discussing future plans, also signalling the end of the sequence. As originally scripted, the muted sounds of five hundred forks hitting five hundred glasses are heard outside. The sequence ends with a family photograph, (with the WASP girlfriend) (Chown, 1988: 81). And the last shots where the father and daughter dance are from the same angle as the first shot of the mall. This time the sound is also the first sound we heard in the film, but a cheery version of the Godfather waltz. Bringing everything to a circular close.
2Walter Murch in his lecture Dense Clarity - Clear Density, classifies sounds on a spectrum ranging from violet (encoded) sounds to describe language, to red (embodied) sounds to describe music, with all other sounds falling within this as orange, yellow and blue-green (“linguistic” effects, sound effects, and “musical” effects).
Bazin, A. (1967) What is Cinema? (essays selected and translated by H. Gray), Berkeley: University of California Press
Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing, London: BBC
Chown, J. (1988) Hollywood Auteur: Francis Coppola, New York: Praeger
Clarens, C. (1980) Crime Movies: From Griffith to The Godfather and Beyond, London: Secker & Warburg
Hayward, S. (2000) Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts, 2nd edn. London & New York: Routledge
Kael, P. (1975) Deeper Into Movies, London: Calder & Boyars
Kolker, R. P. (1980) A Cinema of Loneliness: Penn, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press
Mason, F. (2002) American Gangster Cinema: From Little Caesar to Pulp Fiction, Hampshire & New York: Palgrave MacMillan
McCarty, J. (2004) Bullets Over Hollywood: The American Gangster Picture from the Silents to the Sopranos, Cambridge, Mass: Da Capo Press
Murch, W. (2001) In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, 2nd edn. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press
Nelmes, J. (ed) (1999) An Intriduction to Film Studies, 2nd edn. London & New York: Routledge
The Godfather Screenplay third draft from March 29, 1971,
http://www.awesomefilm.com/script/THEGODFATHER.txt (22 December 2004)
The Godfather film transcript,
http://www.scenariusze.stopklatka.pl/pdf/Godfather.pdf (22 December 2004)
C'e la luna mezz'o mare Lyrics and translation,
http://members5.boardhost.com/italfolk/msg/170.html (19 January 2005)
Murch, W (Undated) ‘Dense Clarity – Clear Density’, http://www.ps1.org/cut/volume/murch.html (10 January 2005)
Imdb Entry on The Godfather,
http://imdb.com/title/tt0068646/ (10 January 2005)
Comments to TheRestoftheAnalysis
Correct me if am wrong Annand, did not Mario Puso set it out that way for Francis Cuppola ?
I agree that it was really well made - but any director worth his weight in salt would have done a decent job. Ain't it?
posted by Nilu2:16 am, January 28, 2005
Good point Nilu. The bulk of the 'action' and characters for the movie come from Puzo, but there is a distinct Coppola contribution. Again I refer to Pauline Kael, who points out that the book was essentially 'trash' (in her own words) and also referred to it as being written 'below Puzo's abilities'. This is because the book contains perfect raw material, but is unrefined. Its characters have been lent a little bit more depth, and its events have been fleshed out and 'layered' a lot more by Coppola. Coppola also was instrumental in keeping the focus of the story. He significantly left out a good deal of sleazy material from the book, and the good bits he left out (Vito Corleone's past), used in the much more personal and cinematically classier sequel. Unfortunately, Kael's entire review is not available online for copyright reasons. But it would make sense for anybody pursuing this line of thought to read it from the book, or from the New Yorker archives of March 18 1972 where it originally appeared.
Again, it is not only Kael, but others too have written about Coppola's unique contribution to the project. Also considering the fact that Paramout wanted it shot as a low-budget, contemporary sleaze flick starring Ryan O' Neal, I don't think anybody, other than Coppola could have pulled it off.
posted by Anand5:22 pm, January 28, 2005
something else happened with coppola.
he iconized the mafia; and violence, therefore, is presented with no sense of outrage; making it impossible for a public (that has no contact with the mafia) to differentiate between real and reel. while the onus is not on the artist to churn out socially thoughtful films, certainly, maybe critical analysis warrants critical social thought?
it is interesting to read your work. i am glad you are doing well and have braved the winter.
posted by10:02 am, January 31, 2005
I read the book and then watched the movie as the book was easily available in my teens than the video. In my personal opinion as a reviewer pointed out, Godfather was not ceiling of Puzo's capabilities.
It was actually Coppola's sheer sense for films that made a raw material into a evergreen movie.
Anand, Though it was an academic article with numbers like 2 in the superscripts, it was a great read. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I did read all the three in one strech and found it as a great analysis
posted by lazy geek4:30 pm, January 31, 2005
D: I knew when I wrote this that someone will come up with this angle to the Godfather. I found in the books I referrred to, especially Clarens' good discussions about 'the myth' of the Godfather (in the Roland Barthes sense). IN fact, there is a good discussion about how Puzo's depcition was much more grim and gritty complared to Coppola's romanticisation. I did not want to discuss this aspect in my analysis at all. I just wanted this to be a filmmaker's analysis, not a film theorist's critique. And I have not yet braved the winter. At least I cannot say that until mid March!
Lazy: Thanks mate! :)
posted by Anand7:39 pm, January 31, 2005
Anand - Enjoyed reading your analysis..
"The arrival of Johnny Fontane also allows the film to go back to Kay, who is also exited on seeing him"Missing c, I suppose!
posted by swami9:43 am, February 07, 2005
Ahhgh Swami... you nitprick!
:) Thanks for pointing that out mate!
posted by Anand5:43 pm, February 07, 2005
machi for some one who has seen you from kindergarten, more than any other feeling, I just feel like an illiterate villager who looks with pride at his son talking english.
posted by prasad12:25 am, February 25, 2005
References to TheRestoftheAnalysis
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