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Here is an abstract of our story analysis of The Godfather, one of the most appreciated movies ever and a masterwork of scriptwriting
Sequence 5. Michael kills Sollozzo and McCluskey. 69-88
Michael and Clemenza return home. The house is now being protected by many men carrying weapons. Tessio tells to Clemenza that Bruno Tattaglia was“hit“ that afternoon at four.
Act I of a new plot, which will tell the counter-attack of the Corleone against Sollozzo/Tattaglia and McCluskey.
Ellipsis of the murder of Bruno Tattaglia: evoked, but not shown.
Sonny is proud to announce to Tom, Michael and Clemenza, that Sollozzo wants to meet Michael to negotiate.
Sonny and Tom have a major disagreement: Sonny – in a spirit of revenge – wants to kill Sollozzo, whereas Hagen – who is more pragmatic – wants to negotiate. Hagen confirms that the Captain works for Sollozzo who pays him well, and that the allied Five Families will not want to declare war on the police of New York.
The information about McCluskey allows us to complete a missing element: his motivation is simply money.
Michael gives his opinion: either Vito or Sollozzo must die. He exposes his plan: accept the meeting with Sollozzo and McCluskey in a public place, hide a weapon there and kill them both.
It‘s the first time Michael can give his opinion so frankly, getting involved with an actantial role and being validated by the other characters.
Clemenza, Tessio, then Sonny, start to laugh. They find Michael‘s plan ridiculous.
This contradicts what we just stated but not for long. Their reaction just underlines the fact they are not used to dealing with Michael in an actantial role.
Tom Hagen seems to hesitate. but Michael holds on and argues again: the journalists that they pay can denounce this corrupt cop involved in drug trafficking.
Cut: Clemenza helps Michael in his efforts to shoot a gun.
Here, the story evaded the discussion and went directly to the consequences: the plan of Michael will be realized. This is a significant victory. It demonstrates his new role of leadership within the Corleone clan.
It also makes clear we entered the Act II – development – of this plot.
Together, Michael and Clemenza rehearse the attack plan.
This helps setting up our expectations… so as to contradict them better later on!…
Sonny, Clemenza, Tessio and Rocco eat in silence. Michael smokes a cigarette. Tom reveals he wasn‘t able to discover where the meeting with Sollozzo and McCluskey was supposed to take place. They think about canceling the plan.
Sonny suggests shooting at the car that will take Michael, but Clemenza and Tom oppose this idea.
Uncertainties, so suspense!
The phone rings, Sonny answers. An informer who works for McCluskey gave him the address of the restaurant where the meeting will take place.
Theater strike! To be noticed: the authors could have avoided a discussion of these obstacles, but it is much more dramatic with the discussion than without it.
As a result, they take immediate action: Sonny sends Tessio and Clemenza to hide the gun. Michael asks Sonny: „When will I be able to come back, after?“ Sonny: „Not before a year“… Sonny says he will give a goodbye from Michael to their mother and to Kay… Michael embraces Sonny and Tom, and leaves.
This scene makes tension grow. The last information about the absence duration of Michael, sets up the part that will follow about Michael’s Sicilian exile.
Michael is waiting in front of a restaurant, a car stops and he climbs in the front. In the back, Sollozzo and McCluskey. Sollozzo and Michael show each other their good will. McCluskey evens says, somewhat hypocritically, that he‘s sorry for the punch that still marks Michael‘s swollen cheek, before frisking Michael meticulously. Michael notices that their car does not go toward New Jersey. But suddenly the driver makes a half-turn on the road and they are headed back to New York.
Not much information in this scene that simply aims at growing the tension. Another wrong track due to an obstacle that is set up and immediately paid off.
The three characters in an almost deserted Italian restaurant. Sollozzo and Michael begin speaking in Italian then in English. Sollozzo reproaches Vito for having been old-fashioned. Michael asks him not to make another attempt on his father‘s life. Michael excuses himself to go to the bathroom.
Information effect and connivance: we know precisely why Michael wants to go out, and we also know that the two others ignore it, which will soon lead them to be shot dead.
We can see Sollozzo looking worried, then frisking Michael again, fearing some trick, but McCluskey confirms: he‘s OK, I checked him. Michael goes to the bathroom. Sollozzo: Don‘t stay long in there. The dramatic music, the one of the scenes showing the punishment of Woltz, and Vito in danger at the hospital, plays again.
Act III, beginning of the Crisis.
Huge dramatic irony, due to the difference of information between us, spectators, and them, Antagonists. The confidence McCluskey displays towards Michael appears to be a fatal mistake, an element that is frequent in tragedies. The music, plays the role of an emblem, underlining the dramatic aspect of the scene, also confirmed by its systematic repetition: each time we hear it, we know that something dramatic will happen.
In the bathroom, Michael looks for the gun…but can not find it!!.
Wrong track! The prognosis becomes doubtful.
McCluskey watches in direction of the bathroom, vaguely worried, while continuing continues to eat, while Sollozzo smokes.
The assembly in parallel contributes to grow the tension. The plot splits into two parts, so that now each side ignores what the other is doing, which results in the uncertainty and the anxiety raising.
Michael finds the gun.
The tension mounts. The prognosis becomes favorable to Michael.
McCluskey watches again in direction of the toilets.
Repetition, that underlines tension.
Michael is about to go out, whereas a train is passing by, with its rumbling growing in a crescendo and then a decrescendo.
Then Michael comes out, and hesitates. All the while, McCluskey and Sollozzo watch him. Michael walks towards them, and sits back. Sollozzo asks: Do you feel better?
Information effect: Michael and us, we know he just didn‘t execute the plan as it was prepared (he was supposed to shoot as soon he would have left the bathroom, but his enemies are very careful). This generates a new uncertainty, and modifies the prognosis again.
The question of Sollozzo sounds with much dramatic irony: no, Michael certainly does NOT feel very good right now…
Sollozzo talks to Michael in Italian. The camera focuses on Michael while a strong train noise invades the soundtrack and covers Sollozzo‘s voice.
Media effect: the plot prepared us to expect visual action, and the director disturbs our attention with sound. The train‘s rumbling stands as a metaphor of Michael‘s inner tension.
Without listening to Sollozzo, Michael stands up, shoots a bullet in Sollozzo‘s forehead, another bullet in McCluskey‘s throat, then a third one in his forehead.
Climax and answer to the dramatic question: YES, he killed them.
He walks a few steps in the direction of the exit, drops the gun, and leaves.
Here again we can state some minor differences with the plan they prepared.
At the exit, Tessio takes Michael in his car and they leave. A triumphant musical score ensues, as the picture shows a last shot of the double murder scene.
Final result: it‘s a full success, the two Antagonists of the Corleone in general, and of Michael in particular, are dead. This result concludes a period, and automatically opens a new one.
Cut on press articles, then on a series of quickly interlaced pictures showing bloodshed and the killers. As the Corleone had foreseen, the double murder leads to a war, while the journalists who work for the Corleone were able to reveal Captain McCluskey‘s corruption. The press begins to publish anti-Barzini articles. At the conclusion, Don Vito Corleone returns home to rest and heal.
This purely contemplative sequence abstains from any dramatic mechanics: it mixes banal moments of life with shocking pictures and press headlines. It plays the role of a transition, summing up a long series of actions without telling them. Despite of the thematic intensity of the evoked events, we nearly get the impression that we are taking a break, resting for a moment…
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