After Citizen Kane ?

... comparing "winners" and "losers"

Ch. 4. Narrative (Bordwell, textbook)

Action and Hero [ Idea in subtext? ]

Next -- McMurphy | Pulp Fiction ?

2008 class project "Movies and Politics"

Essay/Article in class for discussion (sample?)

... "Politics & Movies" [2008]

* 2007-8 class -- godfather first scene [text] GENRE: "Mafia movies", drama, crime? (mixed genre -- samples) wikipedia:
The Godfather, Part II is the sequel to The Godfather, released in 1974. The film follows the original Godfather film by alternating the story of a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro), with his son Michael's (Al Pacino) rise to control the Mob in Las Vegas. The film also stars Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Michael V. Gazzo, John Cazale, Talia Shire and Lee Strasberg. Many critics consider the sequel to be equal to (if not superior to) the original film in quality.

The film was written by Francis Ford Coppola from the original work by Mario Puzo, and was directed by Coppola. Coppola stated that he was not in favor of directing a sequel to The Godfather, because he had waged a number of battles with the studio (and at one point was even in danger of being fired from his position). He initially suggested to Paramount that Martin Scorsese (who was still an up-and-coming director at the time, as well as a friend of Coppola) direct the sequel, but the studio refused. Coppola then insisted upon complete creative control of the film and a minimum of studio interference, plus a sizable salary; Paramount Pictures agreed to these conditions, and Coppola committed himself to directing the sequel.


The plot consists of two parallel storylines, and the film switches back and forth between them. One storyline is the continuing story involving Michael Corleone in the 1950s; the other is a flashback sequence following his father, Vito, from his youth in Sicily up through the founding of the Corleone crime family in New York and the births of Michael and his siblings. This version of Vito is played by different actors at different ages, but the adult Vito is played by Robert DeNiro, who won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for a role in which, interestingly, he speaks almost no English-language dialogue.

In a meticulous recreation of the Italian section of New York City at the beginning of the 20th Century, the audience experiences the early life of Vito Corleone, and his experiences with the Mafia: the murder of his father (first), brother (second) and mother (third) by a Sicilian crimelord; his flight to America, and his fight against the firmly-entrenched Mafia of his new home; his beginnings as a petty thief, his eventual rise to power as the new "Don," and his eventual revenge on the murderer of his family back in Sicily. As in The Godfather, Vito Corleone portrays the mythical Mafia Don as a man of respect, someone who appears to be out to help his fellow men (despite the acts of murder and violence he commits).

The "modern day" portion of the film takes place several years after Vito Corleone's death, and his son Michael Corleone's ascension to the role of the new Don. Unlike his father, Michael is not a fair, wise, noble and basically decent leader. He is cold and calculating and in his attempts to strengthen the Corleone's business interests, he loses sight of his family. By the time the film's climax is reached, in a montage of death and murder that mirrors the climax of the first film, Michael has committed unforgivable sins and destroyed the heart of the family—and his own soul.

* Hero = Boss = Don = Father (and son)

Sequels Concept:
In the director's commentary on the DVD edition of the film (released in 2002), Coppola states that this film was the first major motion picture to use "Part II" as the title. Paramount Pictures was initially opposed to his decision to name the movie The Godfather Part II. According to Coppola, the studio's objection stemmed from the belief that audiences would be reluctant to see a film with such a title, as the audience would supposedly believe that, having already seen The Godfather, there was little reason to see an addition to the original story. The success of The Godfather Part II began the Hollywood tradition of numbered sequels, as with Rocky III, Halloween 2, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and many others.
Its sequel, The Godfather Part III, was released in 1990.

Best Shots:

Best Scenes:

Psychology: Aggressive Personality Type *

"Boss"? Businessman?

Command. Aggressive individuals take charge. They are comfortable with power, authority, and responsibility.

Hierarchy. They operate best within a traditional power structure where everyone knows his or her place and the lines of authority are clear.

Tight ship. They are highly disciplined and impose rules of order that they expect others in their charge to follow.

Expedience. Aggressive men and women are highly goal-directed. They take a practical, pragmatic approach to accomplishing their objectives. They do what is necessary to get the job done.

Guts. They are neither squeamish nor fainthearted. They can function well and bravely in difficult and dangerous situations without being distracted by fear or horror.

The rough-and-tumble. Aggressive people like action and adventure. They are physically assertive and often participate in or enjoy playing competitive sports, especially contact sports. usa + usdirectors +


GodFather II

(Library on Reserve THR334)
Climax in class -- Killing + Bibtizing (parallel montage)


I. American Identity and "American Story" (New World, past -- Italy, Old World): transition (what's gained and what's lost?)

II. "An American Dream" (home, family, money -- conflict, what order?)

III. Hero (Tragic?) Classical types?

IV. Violence [ the restaurant, shot-by-shot in class ]

V. Murder (power?)

VI. Family (Wife, woman, women, children, brothers, sisters, cousins... )

VII. Christianity (Catholic v. Protestant) -- a point? God and (New) Americans. AMERICAN GOD (calling, mission, blessed?)

VIII. Death (Meaning of Life?)

Mini-papers 2005 class:

Light, color = the Baroque style of painting with light. Rembrandt. *

... I contemplate how much influence Coppola has absorbed from some of the great artists through out history (Caravaggio, Rembrandt, possibly even Da Vinci and others). *

[ handouts ]

Motion pictures can be edited in two basic ways. Continuous action presents events in the sequence they occur. Time may lapse between scenes, but the story unfolds chronologically, so that the beginning, middle, and end of the film are also the beginning, middle, and end of the story that the film tells. Parallel action cuts back and forth between scenes or narratives. Sometimes parallel action is used to depict events that occur simultaneously, other times to relate multiple narratives, cutting back and forth between them. The primary difference between the first two Godfather films is that The Godfather employs mostly continuous action, whereas Part II uses parallel action. From the opening at Connie’s wedding to the final scene in which Michael arrives at Las Vegas, the scenes of The Godfather are related in chronological order. The major storylines of the film—the transfer of power from Vito to Michael and Michael’s development from youngest son to Godfather—are tales of development, linear in structure. As a result, the characters’ actions speak largely for themselves. We see Michael develop from someone who is unable to say “I love you” to Kay into someone who can. We see Vito change from a powerful Godfather into a playful old grandfather.

... While The Godfather consists of a single narrative whose chronological exposition is interrupted a few times to highlight important moments, Part II alternates between two separate stories. Rather than being used sparsely and strategically, as in The Godfather, parallel action defines the entire structure of Part II. The Godfather opens with a scene that culminates in an initially disrespectful suppliant kissing Don Vito’s hand in a humble show of respect. Part II begins with a parallel shot of Michael, now Godfather, having his hand kissed by a suppliant. But then the movie cuts to an image of the rocky Sicilian countryside. Subtitles state, “The Godfather was born Vito Andolini, in the town of Corleone in Sicily.” With this opening, Part II announces that it will not simply move forward like The Godfather, but back and forth. It also establishes that the film’s parallel structure will function crucially, as the display of respect shown to Michael is immediately undermined by the narrator who calls Vito, not Michael, Godfather. Not only will the movie compare the two men, but it will complicate the transfer of power enacted in The Godfather. This opening scene shift suggests that Michael has failed to escape his father’s mythical shadow.

Montage Montage, a rapid succession of images that links different scenes, is the most dramatic form of parallel editing. It is used many times in the Godfather trilogy, most famously in the baptism scene at the end of The Godfather. As Connie and Carlo’s son is baptized, the film cuts to images showing the murders of the heads of the five Mafia families, murders that Michael has ordered. The use of montage implies that the murders and the baptism occur simultaneously, and the juxtaposition of the calm, peaceful, and religious church ceremony and the frantic, violent murders gives each unexpected new meaning. The irony between these vastly different scenes is striking. During the baptism ceremony, the godparents must respond to questions such as “Do you reject the glamour of evil?” and “Do you reject Satan and all his works?” by saying “I do.” Michael’s sincere “I do’s” cement his position as godfather to Connie’s baby, but the murders he ordered form a ceremony of their own from which Michael emerges as a Godfather of an entirely different sort.

The duality highlighted by this particular montage captures the nature of Michael’s new life. As Godfather, he will be in charge of two very different families. But at the same time that the montage signals Michael’s full accession to the title of Godfather, it also shows how he will differ from his father. By carrying out such violence during his nephew’s baptism, just as he is declaring his belief in God and denouncing Satan, Michael desecrates the service and brings violence into the sphere of family. Michael’s duplicity, his ability to lie, and his ruthlessness are all highlighted by this dramatic sequence of images. But also apparent is his willingness to allow violence into the home, something Vito would have prevented. This distinction between father and son is picked up dramatically in Part II. [sparknotes]


As the Bronx restaurant scene begins, we look at Sollozzo from over Michael’s shoulder. The camera stands behind him. We are looking from Michael’s vantage, but not from his eyes. As the scene progresses, we move closer to Sollozzo. When Michael’s shoulders disappear from the screen, we are seeing Sollozzo through Michael’s eyes, just as we saw Bonasera through Vito’s eyes in the film’s opening scene. Another key to the change in perspective is in the use of subtitles. When Sollozzo and Michael speak in Italian, there are no subtitles. Until this point, the dialogue in Italian has been translated, because Vito was born in Sicily and is fluent. Michael, on the other hand, can barely understand or speak the language. Toward the end of Sollozzo’s un-subtitled speech in Italian, Michael tries to respond in Italian, but he is unable and has to resort to English. After killing Sollozzo and McCluskey, Michael goes to Sicily and learns Italian. For this reason, all subsequent Italian dialogue in the trilogy, even when we are seeing things from Michael’s perspective, is subtitled.

As Michael retrieves the gun in the bathroom, we enter his head more fully. We hear a din from an elevated subway car passing by. The sound is much louder than that of a flushing toilet, and it is clearly not part of any objective reality. Instead we are in Michael’s head, hearing the sound of his anxiety. When Michael returns to the dining area, subtle sounds—a fork clanking against a plate, soft footsteps—are amplified, as Michael’s senses are on high alert. Sollozzo again tries to talk in Italian, still without subtitles, but soon the din returns, drowning out the words. The sound of the passing subway car grows and grows, its grating, scratching sound becoming increasingly deafening. At no other moment are we more in Michael’s head. Then Michael stands and fires, first shooting Sollozzo, then turning to McCluskey and firing twice. During the shooting and in the first moments afterward, the perspective returns to that of a removed third-person. Once again, we look on Michael and the rest of the restaurant from afar, then the dinner table draped with collapsed, bloody bodies. But the transfer of perspective has occurred. We have entered Michael’s head, and now the story is his.


(trivia) Robert De Niro's performance as Don Corleone (a role originated by Best Actor winner Marlon Brando) won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. De Niro and Brando remain the only two actors to win Oscars for playing the same character.

In addition to Best Picture, The Godfather Part II won Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert De Niro), Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola), Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola) and Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material. It was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Al Pacino), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael V. Gazzo), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Lee Strasberg), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Talia Shire) and Best Costume Design. The film has also been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Critically, The Godfather Part II can be considered the most successful sequel in movie history. Many critics praise it as equal, or even superior, to the original film. The Internet Movie Database consistently ranks this movie in the top five of its "Top 250 movies of all time", as voted by its users. The film also regularly ranks independently on many "greatest movies" lists.


The film opens in the study of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), the Godfather, who is holding court. It is the wedding of his daughter Connie (Talia Shire), and no Sicilian can refuse a request on that day. So the supplicants come, each wanting something different - revenge, a husband for their daughter, a part in a movie. [ Happy Beginning = tragic story? ]

The end of WWII, Michail (youngest son, fairy-tale) - a war hero. [ "The Corleone with the most screen time is Michael (it's therefore odd that Al Pacino received a Best Supporting Actor nomination), and his tale, because of its scope and breadth, is marginally dominant. His transformation from "innocent" bystander to central manipulator is the stuff of a Shakespearean tragedy. By the end, this man who claimed to be different from the rest of his family has become more ruthless than Don Vito ever was." movie-reviews ]

Gambling and alcohol are forces of the past and present; narcotics are the future -- "old king" -- "Don Vito is a most complicated gangster. In his own words, he is not a killer, and he never mixes business with personal matters. He puts family first ("A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man") and despises displays of weakness. He understands the burden of power, and his wordless sympathy for Michael when he is forced to assume the "throne", is one of The Godfather's most revealing moments (about both father and son)."

THEMES: Family responsibility. A father's legacy. The need to earn respect. ... The corrupting influence of power.

Although the issues presented in The Godfather are universal in scope, the characters and setting are decidedly ethnic. ITALY, Cicily, Palermo --

Nino Rota's mournful score [ Fillini's composer ]

[ Fine Arts, artists? ]

Gameplay [The world of The Godfather: Experience a decade of violence in New York City from 1945-55]: Featuring non-linear action-adventure gameplay, The Godfather will offer gamers countless choices for solving the family’s problems with brutal violence, skillful diplomacy, or a cunning mixture of both. From mob hits and bank heists to drive-bys and extortion, step deep inside the world of The Godfather -- where intimidation and negotiation are your tickets to the top. Players will use their powers of loyalty and fear to earn respect through interactions with characters in the world. Decisions made by the player in the game will have lasting consequences, just as it was in the mob underworld featured in The Godfather fiction.

Features: Put yourself in the Godfather: Players will create their own mobster and put themselves in the action of the game and experience the fiction of The Godfather.

Am. NOVEL: With over twenty million copies sold, The Godfather stands among the greatest selling works of American fiction. Adding to this legacy, Mario Puzo wrote the screenplays for the three Godfather movies, which were directed by Francis Ford Coppola and won Academy Awards in 1972 and 1974. Adding to our cultural vocabulary, we owe The Godfather our understanding of expressions like "going to the mattresses" and "sleeping with the fishes."

MYTH: The question of whether one can lose his family while trying to save it is central to the Godfather myth... the movie had hardly begun before it became quite clear that Don Corleone couldn’t even protect himself, much less anybody else.
All decisions he makes are born out of weakness (necessity)?

"The Tarotic Godfather": four Tarot Princes *

* Santino (Sonny) Corleone—played by James Caan, his virile aggressiveness and passion for his family and his own sense of justice are pushed to the tragic limits of his type.

* Frederico (Fredo or Freddie) Corleone—played by John Cazale, he possesses neither the education, nor the wits, nor the physical power of the other brothers, and is really the person, which most families seem to have, who has to be looked after his entire life.

* Michael

* Tom Hagen—played by Robert Duvall, the lawyer of the family, whose purely civil and rule-based powers are spent doing a magic act, making the Corleone family and its business appear to be legitimate. But Tom’s weakness and fundamental flaw is that he isn’t REALLY Sicilian, nor even a real Corleone brother. He’s adopted (though never officially given the last name) and his personal search for legitimacy within the Corleone family mirrors that of his adoptive family in their search for the same recognition and respect in America. [ why is this charater needed? ]

* Enemies = the other gansters! What's the differnce?

Historicity: The Godfather came out shortly before America woke up to hear about some dolts getting caught breaking into the Watergate Hotel -- nothing about Vietman? But Cuba!

Today's connotations? ("Imperial" power, miltary, aggression?)


* Brando made his name as an actor in December, 1947, starring as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. He became a Broadway legend, playing the role for two solid years (800+ performances).

* In 1954, Brando gave his greatest performance, as washed-up boxer Terry Malloy, who gets by performing little favors and doing "show-no" longshoreman jobs for waterfront mob boss "Johnny Friendly," in On the Waterfront. The dramatic blockbuster, like Street Car and Zapata directed by Elia Kazan, would be nominated for 12 Oscars, and win eight.

* By the early 1970s, when he was given the chance to star as mob patriarch Don Vito Corleone, in The Godfather, which was being directed by a young man named Francis Ford Coppola, he had to take a screen test to get the role, an indignity he never had to put up with during the 1950s or ‘60s. But it was a blessing. The challenge invigorated him. According to legend, Brando put cotton in his cheeks for the screen test, to give the impression of an aging, Italian-born gangster. Legend or no, the movie earned the actor his second Oscar for best actor, provided a new generation with a new image of him, and indirectly made him millions through his revived fame.

* The same year as The Godfather, Brando starred in the then revolutionary Last Tango in Paris, by Bernardo Bertolucci. Last Tango was rated X (today NC-17) for sex scenes that were considered of pornographic quality. At the risk of sounding like a libertine, when I finally saw Last Tango, both in the American and German versions, I suspected that material I'd read about had been edited out of it. (Or else, the original stories about the picture were exaggerated.) In any event, the story of a man who has just lost his suicidal wife, and who embarks on a narcissistic, anonymous, purely sexual relationship with a girl half his age whom he has just met, was an international sensation. "Paul" (Brando) insists that "Jeanne" (Maria Schneider) not fall in love with him, not even tell him her name. But she does fall in love with him, and ultimately kills him, when he stalks her.
What would have been tawdry, softcore pornography in less talented hands, became, through Bertolucci and Brando, and with Gato Barbieri's brilliant score, an epitaph for the budding sexual revolution (though I don't recall anyone saying so at the time). Sex Without Love = Death.
Although released in 1972, Last Tango qualified as a 1973 release, in terms of Academy Awards eligibility, and got Brando another Best Actor Oscar nomination. It was to be his last.

... Then, Brando was signed by Coppola to star in Apocalypse Now, one of the most star-crossed productions in Hollywood history. While the Philippines production suffered monsoons, the near death of co-star Martin Sheen (then only 37) due to a massive heart attack, and the cost overruns and general indiscipline that would become associated with the middle-aged Francis Ford Coppolla, the initial problem was Brando. He showed up for his role as a Special Forces colonel 100 pounds overweight, and according to reports at the time, the script had to be re-written so that Brando would appear on the screen only for a few minutes. Thus did the star vehicle become a cameo role.

The Parents of the Angry Anti-Hero

... For most of the last 40 years of his life, Brando was a bum, and he died a bum...

* Godfather (script) in (craft)

... images, video

scenes selection : ...