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The opening shot of Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 classic
is a close up of Bonasera
who utters a now famous line
00:00:23,960 --> 00:00:25,420
The camera then opens up

and reveals the world where the story is going to unfold.
The seductive nature of this opening shot lures us into the mystery of this world;
the world of The Godfather.
Bonasera's opening monologue forms a significant part of the elaborate opening sequence
which is intercut with Connie and Carlo's wedding outside.
This is the sequence where most of the themes are established.
First, it establishes the perspective.
We are going to witness this world from inside.
We see the nervous immigrants seeking justice,
an Italian mob wedding,
food, family, friends.
The mafia is presented as everyday people,
not as the scum of the society like in the previous mob films.
The family ties are established with as much importance as the world of mafia itself.
This is where we understand that despite the nature of its world,
The Godfather, inherently,
is a family drama.
Coppola uses contradiction to establish the complex nature of the family business
and shapes our understanding towards these men.
Through Bonasera,
we understand that the Corleone family is on the side of justice.
But the way of providing justice paints them unlawful.
A sense of respect is evident on Kay's face
when Michael explains to her why Tom Hagen has a different last name.
But that feeling diminishes when she gets to know the importance of Luca Brasi.
The two significant shots from the opening sequence show Vito
gazing out through his office window at the family celebration.
These shots link the exterior to the interior,
balancing for Vito his want and need,
leisure and obligation,
family and business.
His commitment to his work is the sole reason for the opulence outside.
The acquisition of wealth and happiness involve acts of violence.
The key aspect to notice in this opening sequence
sequence is that the violence performed on Vito's behalf isn't something we are asked to judge.
Instead, we focus more on how the family business keeps Vito away from the business of family.
None of these sentiments are spoken out loud.
Not even in the form of exposition.
This is all in subtext.
Coppola presents the subtext through masterful staging and blocking.
An extraordinary emphasis is put on set design, lighting and camera placement.
Notice the scene when Tom is being held captive.
The opening shot is a grotesque wide angle close up of Sollozzo bathed in warm orange light.
He walks across the camera to present Tom in a half lit mid-shot.
There's no establishing shot.
That is because we have to share Tom's uncertainty
to feel sympathetic to his situation.
Another scene where Michael realizes
that the safety of his father and family depends upon the assassination of both Sollozzo and McCluskey,
he takes control of the meeting and the scene
by taking a seat in the center of the frame.
During the entire assassination sequence,
Michael is aware of the fact that he is an actor performing a script.
So when he comes out of the bathroom,
we expect him to carry out Clamenza's instructions.
But Coppola plays with audience's expectation.
Michael strays from the script.
He comes out and looks Sollozzo in the eye.
There's a moment of hesitation.
He was supposed to come out blasting.
Instead, he walks to the table and sits down.
The conversation continues.
The action is suspended,
strengthening our desire to reach the intended conclusion.
But Michael's introspection reads hesitation
and as we worry that he might lack the courage to pull the trigger.
We want him to remember Clemenza's words
because we really want him to get away with the murders.
But Michael's diversion from the given instructions
is how Coppola makes us root for Michael.
He must do that
because the main theme of the film requires
that we root for Michael.
And that theme
is the theme of succession.
One of the most significant decisions Coppola took while adapting the novel
was to focus less on Vito and more on Michael.
And the way Michael's character arc is presented is a stuff of genius
from both Coppola and the cinematographer, Gordon Willis.
When we meet Michael for the first time,
he is presented in a bright sunlight.
He enters his sister's wedding like an outsider.
A sense of naïve innocence is evident when he assures Kay,
Then he stays away from much of the action.
And when he does come back, he is treated as a kid.
Tom advises him not to get involved too directly
He is given meager jobs like answering phone calls.
It is done intentionally
because Michael needs to gain the trust of his family.
Which in turn means ours as well.
That moment arrives when Michael saves his father in the hospital.
The first character change occurs when he assures his father,
He takes control of the situation.
He gains our trust with his shrewd handling of a potentially fatal situation.
Later in the house, he has to assume even bigger responsibility.
The weight of the decision reflects in the camera movement.
As Michael explains his intentions,
the camera slowly tracks in on him from a wide to a mid-shot,
begging everyone to take the boy seriously.
Because we have witnessed his actions in the hospital,
we know he means business, while everyone else laughs.
His time in Italy keeps him away from the ugly war in New York.
He marries Apollonia partly out of guilt.
The guilt of not staying true to his words he assured Kay with.
But the news of Sunny's death
and witnessing his wife's murder hardens him.
The devastation of losing his loved ones forces him to grow old quickly.
He understands the importance of keeping his lineage going.
So when he proposes Kay for marriage,
it is more out of business reasons than out of love.
This is the point where Michael starts to become central to the family.
Coppola saw the Corleone family as something that belongs to a Shakespearean universe.
A king with his three sons inheriting part of his qualities.
Sonny inherited the robust strength.
Fredo inherited the sweetness of a young mind.
While Michael inherited the cunning intelligence.
And it is his intelligence that fuels the rest of the film.
It is interesting to observe how much of The Godfather takes place indoors,
in softly lit rooms, to mask the business of the family.
The style grants the family a sense of visual safety from the outside world
which is noticeably missing when the movie takes place outside.
Because of the knowledge of the danger of the outside world,
Michael prefers to take care of the family business indoors.
And when he would choreograph the murder of his enemies later in the film,
all but one will be carried out indoors.
Places others would also assume to be safe.
But for Michael to carry out such a big act of violence,
he has to assume the ultimate position.
There has to be an exchange of power from the old to the new.
And that happens in this beautiful, and pivotal scene.
Which is also my favorite.
The exchange of power happens over 12 over the shoulder shots,
last of which becomes a lengthy two shot.
The scene plays out in three levels.
At textual level,
it presents Vito alerting Michael of his possible assassination.
This is a father discussing the family business with his son.
At the second level, it is subtext.
And the subtext is personal.
At first, Vito's mind seems to be wandering with multiple thoughts.
When Michael assures his concerned father with the line,
Vito gets his only chance in the movie to exercise his eloquent soliloquy.
An extraneously presented inner monologue
provides Vito a well-deserved moment of clarity.
A moment where a father can apologize to his son
for an unintended fate.
While all of this is happening,
Coppola guides us towards the third level, where the theme of succession takes place.
Michael's assurance to his father is queued with Nino Rota's Godfather theme.
This timely yet subtle introduction of the musical piece
marks the exit of the old Godfather
and the arrival of the new.
Vito's death allows Michael to execute a plan he was patiently waiting for.
The day he becomes the Godfather for his niece
is planned to coincide with the day he executes his enemies.
So brilliant is the execution of Coppola's filmmaking
that we are invited to examine our initial decision to back Michael
to become the successor of the family.
His way of using his alibi to carry out
the violence of towing proportion
dents our respect towards Michael.
And this is the moment
where the film's metaphor of American capitalism reaches its zenith.
The baptism sequence shows that to be successful,
Michael has to pay a price.
And the price is to trade soul for success.
That's a sacrifice Michael is willing to make.
An apt commentary on the American capitalist ideology where ruthlessness in the marketplace
has become a necessary credential for success.
This ruthlessness is on display again when he decides to execute two more people.
Tessio and his sister's husband, Carlo.
If there was ever any doubt about his cold-blooded approach towards the family business,
this is the sequence where it is eradicated.
There are no sentiments involved.
Michael had learnt his lesson early on,
There is an old saying.
“You reap what you sow”.
The Sicilian seeds of violence sowed in the American soil
comes back to haunt Michael at the very end of the film.
When Michael lies to Kay about his involvement in Carlo's murder,
it feels like a selfish act to keep his image in her eyes intact,
rather than keeping his family unaffected by the business.
The family that Vito always kept in sight despite his commitment towards the family business,
is abandoned by Michael when he shuts the door on his wife.
For the family business to flourish,
Michael sacrifices his ties with his family.
From a naïve, innocent and a stoic war hero,
he ends up becoming a cold, heartless and a vengeful mafia lord.
The tragedy for Michael
is that he couldn't avoid the inevitable doom of succession
despite its prior knowledge.
The Godfather glides along its 3 hours run time.
there's not a single moment where the film loses its grip.
There's not a single unnecessary scene.
Not one unnecessary shot.
You can never say you understood every character's thought process
because so much of the conversation happens just by a look.
Even almost half the century later,
The Godfather still resonates with people.
Because we relate to the troubled Bonasera in need of a father figure to get him justice.
We share the same family values Vito advocates
Like Michael,
we also have shared the same kind of relation with our father.
We also value loyalty as much as Michael does
Like the Corleone family,
we all have grown up in a patriarchal hierarchy.
And for better or worse,
we all have to make sacrifices for our family.
All these characters reside in us.
They all represent part of us.
The all hold a mirror in front of us,
revealing a truth that we thought was buried in our conscience.
The Godfather offers you a chance to explore your family values
against your moral values.
And to be honest,
it is an offer you shouldn't refuse.


The Godfather | The Tragedy of Succession

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chialn 2018 年 2 月 21 日 に公開
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