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The Godfather

In The Godfather, one of the main lines of narrative has to do with the fact that the Corleone family always returns insult for insult--except that the returned insult is always at a higher level than the enemy's first action. That clarifies the lengths to which the family goes in order to retain actual hold on power and reputation for ruthlessness. In the film, such meaning is often made visually, with appropriate soundtrack and minimal or no dialogue. This essay examines ways that the Hollywood story arc is conveyed via editing, through continuity of shots, the relationship between shots, and unusual effects.

The axis of action of the Hollywood episode begins in Vito's den, when Vito sends Tom Hagen to get Johnny Fontane a movie role from Woltz. What is visually key about sending an offer that can't be refused is the subdued, reasonable, quietly businesslike den setting. That is matched by the quietus of the assignment itself. (It is also to be contrasted with Vito's short outburst at Johnny's whining a few minutes earlier.)

The first shot of Hollywood makes noise and burns brightly. It opens on a sunlit day and fast cars, with Hollywood glamour music on the soundtrack. The brightness of the segment continues with a cut to of a child actor on the studio set happily kissing Mr. Woltz, to much happy applause all around. Additional cuts also take in studio bustle and the multiple actors in different costumes. That cuts to a dialogue between Woltz and Tom, in which Tom quietly asks for a favor and Woltz peremptorily yells Tom out of the studio.

There is an abrupt cut to an establishing evening shot of the exterior of Woltz's estate. All is quiet in a setting of expansive faux European mansion architecture, lavish landscaping, multiple fountains--Hollywood style. Next come several shots at Woltz's stable, with Woltz and Hagen admiring the handsome horse Khartoum and Woltz, now all cordiality, obviously having been informed of Tom...

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The Godfather. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:11, April 21, 2019, from