Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"No Sicilian Can Refuse Any Request on His Daughter's Wedding Day.": Godfather Analysis Part II

Go to Part I: "I believe in America."

After the dark interior opening, the film cuts to a sunny exterior shot of the wedding celebration with music playing and people dancing. This virtuoso opening sequence brilliantly introduces us not only to most of the important characters in the film, but also to some of the key plot points, although we don’t know it yet. The opening sequence in Corleone’s office has an average shot length of just under 27 seconds. The remainder of the wedding sequence averages just under 8 seconds per shot – an indication that the sequence moves quickly, cutting between exterior and interior scenes, revealing all the characters and some of their personality traits that will figure prominently later.

Carlo and Connie receiving envelopes full of cash gifts with Paulie (left, turned away from camera) talking about all that cash.
In the first exterior sequence we see/learn/are introduced to the following (although we don’t necessarily always learn the names of characters at this point): Vito will not take the family photo without Michael; Connie and Carlo enjoy their celebration; men wander around the parking area noting license plate numbers; Sal Tessio; Don Barzini; Clemenza is Paulie’s boss; Sonny flirts with Lucy Mancini; there is tension between Sonny and his wife, who seems to be aware of his extra-marital activities; Paulie covets the cash purse that Connie and Carlo are filling with large amounts of money; Don Barzini has little class as he takes film from a photographer, crumples it and tosses it on the ground; Tom tells his wife he has to go back to work because “it’s part of the wedding. No Sicilian can refuse any request on his daughter’s wedding day”; Luca Brasi is reciting a ‘thank you’ speech to Don Corleone; the men noting license numbers are the FBI; Sonny is hot-tempered and has to be held back by Clemenza from attacking the FBI. All that information is revealed to the audience in the space of only four minutes with an average shot length of less than 7.5 seconds. The faster cutting through this segment, though much slower by today’s standards, is how Coppola packs in so much information. The Godfather is a film rich in character and detail. Without this virtuoso opening, it’s almost inconceivable he could have pulled off the movie.

Next is another dark interior scene, this time with Nazorene explaining to Don Corleone that he wants young Enzo (formerly an Italian POW who has been working for Nazorene), who is about to be repatriated back to Italy, to stay in the country and marry his daughter. This seems minor, but Enzo will play a key role later in the film when he offers his help to Michael to protect the bed-ridden Vito in the hospital. Because of this act of kindness now, Enzo will remain loyal to the Don. After Nazorene and Enzo exit Tom asks who to give the job to. Corleone tells him, “Not to our paisan. Give it to a Jew congressman in another district.” Obviously it would look suspicious if an Italian politician (‘our paisan’) sponsored Enzo to remain in the country. To avoid the appearance of impropriety, Corleone wants the job executed by a Jew.

Michael and Kay enter with Kay wearing a dress that stands out a little more than all the others.
Now we go back to the exterior for the entrance of Michael and Kay. Michael is dressed in a military uniform, revealing that he is recently returned from serving overseas in WWII. Kay is dressed in a bright orange dress and sun hat, unlike any of the other women at the wedding. We see that Vito, peering out the window of his office, is glad to see his son arrive. We go back to the interior to learn that Luca Brasi wants a moment with the Don to thank him because he didn’t expect to be invited to the wedding. Then we go back outside to Luca continuing to rehearse his speech. Kay, who is sitting with Michael at a table near Luca, notices him and asks about him. Michael refers to him as a “very scary guy.” Michael tells Kay his name and says he helps his father out sometimes. Tom comes out of the house and hugs Michael. He is introduced to Kay as Michael’s brother. He explains to Kay that when Tom was a kid he had no home so his father took him in. He’s now a lawyer and, although he’s not a Sicilian, is going to be Consigliere. Kay doesn’t know what that is – the first sign (or second if you count her style of dress) of her naïveté in this world – and Michael explains that it’s an important advisor position for the family.

We go back inside as Luca bungles his ‘thank you’ speech to Don Corleone. This introduction to Luca tells us that he is not the brightest bulb in the box, but he is loyal to the Don. During this moment some children barge into the office making noise. This is the first time the outside world enters the dark interior of the office. It is a breach of etiquette only forgiven because it is committed by children who don’t know any better. This mistake committed by the children is echoed later in the film when Vito tells Michael that women and children can be careless, but men can not. Tom quickly ushers them out of the room. The isolation of family members who are kept outside the business end of things is another theme that runs throughout the film. It’s ironic considering they constantly refer to their business as the ‘family business.’

Sandra illustrating what her husband Sonny is worth. This is one of the more lurid parts of the novel that subtly made it into the film.
We go back outside now and see Sonny steal away with Lucy while his wife, Sandra, talks to some girlfriends about (presumably) the size of Sonny’s penis. I say ‘presumably’ because it is not made explicit in the film, only inferred. But anyone who has read the novel knows that much time is devoted to discussing Sonny’s well-endowed manhood. Sandra turns to notice that the two are sneaking away together. In the meantime several family members begin singing an upbeat Italian tune inter-cut with an interior shot revealing Sonny going upstairs, then another interior shot a minute later of Lucy going upstairs.

Back in the Don’s office, Tom tells him that Senator Cauly and some of the judges couldn’t make it, but sent gifts. The implication here is that politicians have to maintain the appearance of being untainted and so can’t very well make an appearance at the home of a known mafia Don.

Go to Part III: "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

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