Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Godfather - Character - Michael Corleone

Michael Corleone was the most respectable son of Don Vito Corleone. He has the hopes of his father to do well in life in the “legitimate world” and not follow into his life in the “family business”. Michael is deeply loved by his father leading his father to murder “blackmailers” (Massimo Fanucci) so that he could support Michael’s education, and he soon became a bright handsome young man.
Michael enlisted in the army, despite his father not being happy for him to do so. He suffered wounds from battle in 1945 and was discharged to recover. During his recovery he met his future wife Kay Adams,
When Vito was nearly assassinated Michael became mixed up in the family business (the mafia), although he was determined to have nothing to do with it. His ability to think clearly under fire, to be decisive and demand respect made him the best candidate to take over the family as Godfather.
Unlike his father, who appears at ease in the role of Godfather, Michael is burdened by the responsibility. In some ways Michael sees himself as a sacrificial hero, slaving away at his “job” for the rest of his family, sacrificing himself for the well-being of those around him.
While once distanced from his family towards Kay, Michael eventually grew into the worst of everything his family represented. He love his family very much, family was the most important thing to him now.
Michael was extremely talented and powerful, but he had flaws, for example his demanding desire for vengeance which created a web of violence that he could not escape. This blinded him from the fact that achieving a legitimate life for his family was impossible. He became so vengeful he killed his own brother, Fredo.
Michael was a masterful, strategic think blinded by his vengeance. He had no tolerance for treachery and he slowly becomes bolder, more violent and ambitious than his father. To Kay, Michael was loving and tender. He was able to negotiate a deal with anyone, but he would not talk to Kay. One example of this is when Michael agrees to be honest with her about his business, and he lied. When Connie (Michael’s sister) finds out that he had Carlo (her husband) killed, she goes into a fit of rage saying that Michael is a “lousy cold-hearted bastard”. Michael claims she is just hysterical. Later when asked by Kay about his involvement, he lies to her and denies any involvement. The fact that he lies to Kay, his wife, shows his cowardness and also his unwillingness to allow even his wife into the business side of his (what turn out to be) lonely life. Michael used corrupt methods to get his family into a “legitimate” life, making his family go into a permanent state of corruption. He became very rich but became less successful in his personal life.
Michael’s character relates to the character of Harry Caul on many bases. They are both loners, in a sense that they both do not allow people into their private lives. They are both burdened by guilt and grief and they have many ways of sheltering themselves from the outside world. Michael Coreolne brought his family to ruin, lost his marriage and children, could not find redemption with his guilty conscience and in the end death is seemed to be following him everywhere and he eventually dies alone.

The Conversation - Character - Harry Caul

Harry Caul is a protagonist, a loner who says little, lacks courage and has an unruly dispassion about his work (which he was fully dedicated to) only for his privacy, which he has denied for others, to finally be denied for him.
Harry Caul is a character totally obsessed with his own privacy; he spends his days as a wiretapping expert, invading the privacy of others. Harry's character is impossible for viewers to sympathise with as he is a man, completely obsessed with making himself unavailable to others, that he almost loses his own personality.
Harry suffers intense guilt from a previous assignment - which resulted in the deaths of an entire family.
He becomes engaged in the conversation he has recorded between Ann (Cindy Williams) and Mark (Frederic Forrest). He soon becomes pre-occupied by the true motive and meaning to the conversation. As Harry tries to uncover the meaning of this conversation he creates a meaning of (his romantic obsession) Ann's impression, persecution and her possible death. Harry acts as the films director developing a believable story, he fills the narrative gaps, adding what is visible and heard, with what he believes to be the truth.
We see the film entirely through his eyes, knowing only what he knows. We either see what really happened or what Harry assumes happened. For example, the hotel room murder, watching this, the viewer feels very confused as to what really happened.
Harry is a sad man looking for love and expecting others to give and give without receiving anything in return. In addition to this, he also seeks a clear conscience, remembering the disastrous job resulting in the family deaths.
The shock and paranoia that is unleashed by Martin Stett (Harrison Ford)'s betrayal, results in Harry destroying his apartment. This madness is brought on by his extreme self consciousness and his want to be left alone to himself or perhaps his fear of someone looking and listening to him, and he, Harry Caul, becoming the spy who is being spied upon.
In an article I found online, Professor Metcalf described the significance of Harry Caul's name and character. CAUL - a word used to describe the translucent embryonic covering that can cover a newborn’s head, this idea is brought up many times throughout the film, and also the superstitions associated with the CAULBEARERS, which Professor Metcalf also explains.
Relating to the word "CAUL" he notes that Harry's see-through jacket is a direct reference and a visual symbol of the protection from his childhood. This jacket is meant to act as the barrier, separating him from the rest of the world, but really it does nothing at all to protect his privacy.
This type of censoring continues throughout the film, obstructing paths between Harry and his threats to his privacy and security. For example the scene where Harry is in the church, confessing his sins, the camera moves from a focus on Harry, to the screen, separating Harry and the priest, the camera then focuses on the priest concealed by the screen, listening.
At the climax of the film Harry hears Ann and her husband talking - violently. Harry panics in his room wish is next to Ann and her husbands room (room 773). This shows Harry's overwhelming fear and guilt, he continues to pull the curtains over, blocking out the light and the world (relating back to the idea of him being a 'loner') and he goes to his bed and blankets for "protection". All this is forming a barrier between Harry and his guilt.
With all these examples, it show the further developing isolated, loner, private, distrustful personality of Harry Caul.

The Godfather - Camera Movements

This scene begins as we the viewer are looking at Sollozzo, we see him through Michaels position but not through his eyes. As the scene progresses however the camera angle changes and Michaels shoulders become no longer in shor and we begin to see through Micheal's eyes.
By seeing through his eyes we are able to understand how truly out of his comfort zone he is and we see his attempts to maintain eye contact with the man he is about to murder. These point of view shots in this scene and seeing through the eyes of the character relastes to "The Conversation" as we see the majority of the movie through Harry Caul's eyes.
Michael can barely speak Italian and towards the end of Sollozzo's (un-subtitled) speech in Italian Michael tries to reply to him, in Italian, but is unable and so he has to resort to English. Michael excuses himself to go to the bathroom, as he gets up to leave there is a slow pan going down his leg as we follow Sollozzo's hand frisking Michael for weapons.
As Michael goes to retrieve the gun hidden in the bathroom we begin to enter his head more. He leaves the bathroom and the camera has moved away from Michael, showing a wide shot of the restaurant as he returns to the table. As he returns subtle sounds e.g a fork clanking and footsteps become louder and louder and as they increase the camera becomes increasingly closer to Michael and we as the viewer are able to see and understand how uneasy he is about the situation and how he is intensly trying to advoid eye-contact.
Muchael abruptly stands up and we (as the viewer) become once again distanced from hiim. Michael fires and shoot Sollozzo, then, turns to McCluskey and shoots him twice. Before he pulls the trigger to shoot McCluskey the camera moves slightly closer to Michael, showing him from the weist up hold the gun, flinching slightly as he pulls the trigger. After the shootings we see Michael and the rest of the restaurant from a distance.
This scene is an important turning point in the film as it shows Michael becoming fully engrosed in the "family business".

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Conversation - Ending - Panning Shots

In this final sequence of the conversation (a scene of over powering paranoia), Harry realizes what the true motives of the couple were and that he knows the truth. He heads home to relax one night and starts to play his saxophone.
There is a pan going back and forth across Harry’s apartment; this being the set up for one last twist. As he plays his sax he is trying to get away from reality. The phone rings and Harry is soon being pulled back into the real world again, but there is no one on the other end of the phone.
Harry sits back down and re-enters his unreal world. The camera again pans back to the other side of the room where Harry is sitting. But the phone ring again. Harry once again gets up to answer the phone, this time Martin (Harrison Ford) is on the line. Martin tells Harry that everyone knows that he knows the truth about who killed who and why and that because of this they will be listening to him. Martin goes on to play a recording of Harry playing the saxophone from moments earlier.
At that point the camera slowly pans the room and shows Harry burst into a fit of paranoia. The camera continues to pan and follow Harry as he tears his apartment to bits looking for the bug that Martin is using to spy on him with. By this we now realise that although Harry spies for a living he dislikes it when he, himself is the one being spied on.
Harry tears up the floor and walls looking for the bug. He smashes everything. As Harry stops for a brief moment the camera pans from him to his statue of Jesus, Harry then walks over to the statue and begins to smash it also. The fact that he smashed this is very significant and proof of his paranoia, as throughout the movie we are constantly told that Harry doesn’t like people using the Lords’ name in vain. And that he is very religious.
The level of his paranoia is apparent when he forgets he knows this bugging system and learnt it earlier in the film. Harry has become quite unstable to the point that he has torn up this apartment till it is no longer recognisable, cutting himself off from the real world.
Finally there is again a slow pan going across, back and forth across Harry’s apartment showing the destruction of his paranoia and what is left of his apartment as Harry goes back to playing his saxophone.

The Conversation - Opening Scene - Cut / Jump shots

The opening sequence of the conversation has many different shots involved in it. The camera starts on a wide shot of the square, as it is a major set-piece of the movie, and is where the conversation takes place. The camera then moves down into the square with a slow zoom, which is done to establish the theme of ‘distance’ in the film.
The camera then starts to follow and pan the couple as they go about their conversation. The next shot is blocked so that the characters being “miked” or “spied on” disappear behind a Christmas tree and don’t appear on the other side. The camera continues to pan the couple until it begins to cut between the eavesdropping cop and the surveillance team and the couple.
This movie is primarily about hearing, not seeing and so the cut shots and parallel action of the team in the surveillance van, listening to the garbled audio and the couple walking in the square having their conversation continues to build the character of Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) as an individual who relies on hearing more than any of his other senses.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Godfather - Baptism/Murder Scene - Parallel action - Cut shots - Montage

As the baptism's happening there are many shots cutting back and forth that depict gangsters going about their daily lives and also shows us the double life Micheal will lead as head of the family (The Godfather). This type of editing (Continuous action) continues throughout the movie to show how the action is a major part of this movie and of the life of the Godfather. Another editing style is the Parallel action, (The Godfather II used more parallel action, The Godfather uses more continuous action editing). The most famous use of parallel action is in this baptism scene.
Montage, (a rapid succession of images that links different scenes) is the most dramatic form of the parallel editing. It is used many times in the Godfather trilogy, most famously in this baptism scene.
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 (now the Godfather) has ordered. The use of montage implies that the murders and the baptism occur at the same time, and the juxtaposition of the calm, peaceful, and religious church ceremony and the frantic, violent murders gives each an unexpected new meaning.
The vast irony between the different scenes is striking. During this baptism ceremony, the godparents (Michael) 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" and denouncement of Satan, 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.
This montage / parallel shots 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 the montage signals Michael’s full accession to the title of Godfather, it also shows how he will differ from his father's role of Godfather. By carrying out such violent acts during his nephew’s baptism, just as he is declaring his belief in God and denouncing Satan, Michael spoils the service and brings violence into the family. Michael’s deceit, 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.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Apocalypse Now

**At the height of the Vietnam war, experienced soldier and covert operative Captain Benjamin Willard withdraws from a drunken and disheveled state to accept his most daring and secretive mission yet. His objective is to travel down the Nyung river by boat and assassinate a Green Beret Colonel named Kurtz who has gone insane deep within the Jungle, and leads his men and a local tribe as a god on illegal guerrilla missions into enemy territory. As Willard and the crew of a Navy PR boat unaware of his objective embark on their journey from the security of civilization into the untamed depths of the jungle, Willard confronts not only the same horrors and hypocrisy that pushed the level headed Colonel Kurtz over the edge into an abyss if insanity, but the primal violence of human nature and the darkness of his own heart.**