|Lafar Posters via JoBlo
For today’s Favorite Scene Friday, I’m looking at a very subtle yet powerful scene from The Godfather. It happens early on in the film when Michael and Kay are sitting down and eating during Connie’s wedding reception. Popular singer Johnny Fontane shows up and the women lose their minds; even Kay gets excited. Michael nonchalantly says his father helped Johnny with his career. He’s not bragging, he’s simply continuing the conversation. Kay inquires, Michael dodges, insisting they listen to the song. Kay asks again, and Michael tells the story of his father and Luca Brasi convincing a bandleader to let Johnny out of his contract so he can be free.
I love a good story. I love sitting around with people while someone regales us with a tale. It could be long and intriguing or short and fascinating. It doesn’t matter to me. The story told in this scene falls into the latter, and shows a lot about Michael’s character. Michael openly tells Kay how he knows Johnny and the offer his father makes. He doesn’t have to, but he does. Why? He has nothing to hide. Michael, at this point in his life and relationship with Kay, is an open book. He’s honest and forthcoming whereas later in this film, and the rest of The Godfather Trilogy, he becomes more and more guarded and speaks in fables/life lessons rather than words. After Michael tells Kay “That’s a true story,” we cut to Johnny serenading Connie while his mother, Carlo, and Tessio look on. Now this may be reading too much into the scene, and SPOILERS if you haven’t seen The Godfather Films, BUT, it’s interesting to note that Michael’s mother, Carlo, and Tessio are on the left side of the screen, while his sister is on the right. Michael’s mother eventually passes, Carlo abuses Connie and ends up getting killed, and Tessio turns on Michael later telling us “It was only business.” These are people that have LEFT him by either natural causes or causes of his doing. Connie stays screen right and while she was never the best sister, she was RIGHT by his side when he has his heart attack and when his daughter dies towards the end of The Godfather: Part III. Now that’s some pretty fantastic foreshadowing.
Even when we return to a flabbergasted Kay looking on at Michael, we get another heaping handful of foreshadowing. Without being asked, or teased, Michael tells us “That’s a true story.” And when the scene dwindles down and we return to Michael a second time, he, unprompted, tells us “That’s my family, Kay, that’s not me.” And we all know how that ends up. It’s also worth noting, that this is most likely the happiest Michael and Kay are throughout all three films. The innocence is still there, even after this dark reveal, and the honesty is still there. But all that crumbles when Michael goes into exile, returns, and eventually becomes the head of the Corleone Family.
Most films nowadays would fade or cut to the story Michael is describing while we hear him through a voiceover. But here we sit, uninterrupted on Michael for over forty seconds while he speaks. Ultimately, this scene is only two and a half minutes of a nearly three-hour film. Two and a half minutes of rich and complex subtlety. Two and a half minutes of what seems like a throw away scene used only to take a peek behind the curtain at the violent lengths his family will go. Two and a half minutes of solid acting and directing. Two and a half minutes of short and fascinating storytelling.
What's your favorite scene from The Godfather Trilogy?
Would you watch The Godfather Epic?