Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"And Don't Lose That Famous Temper of Yours, huh, Sonny?": Godfather Analysis Part VII


After the violent events of the previous sequence we go first to an establishing shot of the exterior of Radio City Music Hall and then to Michael and Kay coming out from a show. This is another example of how Michael is separate from the business dealings of his family. Immediately after his father is gunned down, there is a cut to some time later (the sun was still out when Vito was shot and here it is night). Their conversation is completely inconsequential until Kay notices the newspapers proclaiming the shooting of Vito Corleone. After Michael rushes across the street to the phone booth to call Sonny, he closes the phone booth door, leaving Kay standing outside. This is shot deliberately to illustrate how Kay is left on the outside. It is the first of many times Michael will close Kay out of his dealings, not only in this film, but continuing into The Godfather Part II as well. Later he will leave her in the hotel when he goes to the hospital to visit his father. When he returns from Sicily and finds Kay he won’t tell her anything about his business other than that he intends to be legitimate in five years’ time. Finally, the closing shot of the film will be the door shutting Kay out of Michael’s office. Michael enters the booth, Kay remains outside. There is a cut to a close up of Kay looking in before the cut to the interior of the phone booth. The conversation Michael has with Sonny lasts 26 seconds and Kay is visible outside the phone booth the whole time, an outsider looking in.


In these two reverse shots, we see Kay kept on the outside of Corleone family business.

Back at Sonny’s house there is palpable tension and fear. Sandra looks scared while Sonny tries to comfort her. When there is a banging sound outside the house Sandra jumps, Sonny immediately gets his revolver from his bureau drawer. It is only Clemenza coming with news that “word is out on the street [the Don]’s already dead.” Sonny, whose blood is up, pins Clemenza against the wall for being so inconsiderate. Clemenza tells Sonny that Paulie has been out sick three or four times. With this, Sonny is suspicious and orders Clemenza to pick up Paulie and bring him over, no matter how sick he is. Clemenza asks Sonny if he wants him to send any people for protection. Sonny says no, but after Clemenza leaves he tells Sandra he’s going to have some of “our people” come over to the house. At this point Sonny can’t trust Clemenza’s people. This is made more explicit in a deleted scene in which Sonny specifically requests Tessio’s people because he doesn’t want to use Clemenza’s guys right now.
Sonny slams Clemenza against the wall in anger and frustration.

Then the phone rings and the voice on the other end tells Sonny that they have Tom and they will release him soon with their proposition. They instruct Sonny not to do anything rash until he’s heard everything Tom has to say. Notice Sonny has the presence of mind, an instinct almost, to note down the time of the phone call so that he knows when to expect Tom and also to help piece information together later. Coppola and his cinematographer, Gordon Willis, seldom use a zoom in or push in on a character in this film. The opening shot of Bonasera was a zoom out. Zooms or push-ins have been used twice before this one – before the horse head scene there is an exterior zoom on Woltz’s bedroom and then a long push in on Woltz in bed before finding the horse’s head. In those two instances, as here with Sonny on the phone, it seems to be a way of honing attention on a specific thing: a room in Woltz’s house first, then on Woltz before a traumatic event, and now on Sonny as he receives vital information in the wake of his father’s assassination attempt.

Go to Part VIII: "I'm a businessman. Blood is a big expense."

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