Slide 1 - Grosse Pointe Public School System

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					The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola, 1972
Areas of focus

   Acting
   Lighting
   Color
   Music
   Editing
   Sets
   Costume design
1. “I believe in America…”
The opening words of the film are spoken by Amerigo Bonasera, a
man with an Italian accent who has given up on the American legal
system and come to Don Vito Corleone for “justice.” We see him
from the Don’s perspective, in a single long take, within Vito’s
darkened chambers. Notice how each detail – the sepia tones, the
Venetian blinds, the old world décor, the Don’s distorted face and
muffled voice, his conservative tuxedo with the rosebud lapel –
contributes to the mood.

   How would you describe this mood and what it implies about the
   Why does the camera keep shifting back and forth between this
    inner sanctum and the noisy wedding party just outside?
2. Khartoum.

  The film’s first violent act is the killing of a horse, but we
  never see the act itself. What makes this scene so

  Most of it is a single long take that gradually reveals the
  grisly deed. How does Coppola use music, color, texture,
  voice, and editing to both prepare and shock us?
3. Meeting with Sollozzo.
  In one of the film’s many “business meetings,” Sollozzo
  tries to convince the Don to help him enter the drug
  trade. Tom Hagen prepares Vito (and us) with a two-
  minute briefing about Sollozzo [beginning at 33:50],
  interspersed with shots of the men arriving for the
  meeting. How do you know who has the power in this

  Pay attention to the actors’ positioning, their dress and
  the body language, what they say, how they say it, and
  what they don’t say. Analyze the scene from the
  perspective of a social historian, an economist, a
  communications expert, or a military tactician.
4. Luca Brasi Sleeps with the Fishes.

  Watch how Coppola prepares us for Luca
  Brasi’s death. Begin as Brasi, framed in his
  bedroom doorway, puts on his bulletproof vest
  and checks his gun. Follow him through the
  gleaming hotel corridor to the bar. Notice the fish
  etched on the glass and the brown tones of the
  room. Watch the men’s hands and faces as they
  speak in Sicilian.

  Compare this to other death scenes throughout
  the film.
Michael at the Hospital.

   We begin to see a new side of Michael when he takes
   steps to save his father at the hospital. What personal
   qualities does he demonstrate in this scene?

   How does Coppola create suspense and suggest
   Michael’s silent thoughts?

   Pay close attention to the sound track, lighting, editing,
   and other elements of film. Contrast Michael’s reflective
   methods with Sonny’s outgoing style in the scenes that
“How’s the Italian food in this restaurant?”

    The scene in which Michael shoots Sollozzo and McCluskey at
    dinner is one of the film’s most chilling moments.

   Which parts of the scene do you find most compelling? Why?
   Who has the power in this scene?
   Does the power shift at any point?
   Do you expect something to go wrong?
   Does your attitude toward Michael change by the final shot?

    Explain your expectations and responses in terms of what happens
    in the scene and how it is filmed.
The Thunderbolt.

   The Sicilian interlude is an important part of the book.
   Why do you think Coppola chose to include it in the

   What does it contribute to the story and to our
   understanding of Michael?

   Contrast the music, color, and other cinematic qualities
   of these scenes to those that take place in New York and
   Las Vegas.
The Don Dies.

   Vito dies in his garden while playing with his grandson.
   Did you expect him to die when you first saw this scene?
   What guided your expectations or surprised you?

   Some of the details (the insecticide gun, the orange)
   were not in the book. Why do you think they were added
   to the film?

   Much of the interaction between Brando and the child
   was improvised. Does this scene seem different from the
   rest of the movie?
Baptism and Murder.

   The crosscutting between the church baptism and the revenge
   killings is the film’s grand finale and one of the most celebrated
   examples of editing in movie history. Why do you think the editors
   chose to splice together shots from different locations (something
   that was not in the book)?

   Notice their use of matching action (like walking up the stairs), the
   priest’s voice, music, color, and other film elements to link shots.
   What thematic connections are suggested here?

   What does the crosscutting tell us about Michael? How do you judge
   him at this point in his life?

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