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Thursday, April 20, 2006

More Old Movies 

I was watching The Godfather a while ago on the French channel. Unfortunately there were so many ads that slivers here and there were missing. But it made me think: what's important here? Because the film, stripped of the original actors' voices, and badly chopped up, was still compelling as a visual sequence of events. So the next day I went to the script to try to analyze it with the movie fresh in my mind. You can find various versions online. The one I came across was the "1971" version. This is the work of Puzo and Copolla, and it's very interesting.

The plot was exactly the same; the sequence of events (and the content of those events) was quite different.

First, there is a lot of descriptive junk, such as "she is a child in a toy shop" (about Kay at the wedding of Michael's sister). There is a lot of unnecessary (and unworkable) business: Sonny tells his mother that the Don has been shot, she goes away, and he absent-mindedly eats a piece of bread dipped in olive oil. That's useless.

The action scenes were also perfunctory ("he shoots him") except, oddly enough, for the beatings and the attempt on Don Corleone at the fruit stand. This last is described in great detail, with fruit rolling in the gutter and so on.

They hadn't thought out the characters much. Michael, for example, tells Sonny "Why don't you clean this place up?" There's little sense of how the characters relate to each other, and a lot of the best lines were not there. All the improvements on the above I attribute to work with the actors.

But what struck me most was the inane cut-up of scenes. For example, after they initially meet the opium dealer Sollozzo, Don Corleone sends his enormous trusted friend Luca Brasi to check him out. That's the scene where they talk in some sort of art deco bar and they stab Corleone's man in the hand and strangle him. In this script it was all jumbled up with other stuff about Michael and his girlfriend Kay. There was a whole lot of other things like this, where it seemed to be poorly thought out, even unfilmable. Yet this was the 1971 approved script, I assume. They must have been frantic to make some kind of sense of all the material from the rather long novel, and perhaps Puzo kept insisting that they not leave anything out. I read elsewhere that Copolla didn't care for the novel because it was harsh and crude. There are certainly signs of this in this script.

Finally, a good line absent from the script:

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." (It's just "Leave the gun", which is nothing.)


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