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Canonical Text: Godfather

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Good morning. So we were talking about, what is a Canon.So, Citizen Kane as a canon is canonical text. We know when a work of literature, when awork of art becomes part of a canon; it means, it adheres to certain principles, certain standards.And canons are formed not arbitrary, but there is a system, there is a method.And yesterday we were looking at a few books which are canonical, which areanthologies about a canonical text. And what text we are looking at; films as text, soCitizen Kane as a canon, as a canonical text.Now, Citizen Kane which was made in 1941,produced by Mercury and RKO, Mercury and RKO and directed and starring of course,the great Orson Welles (1915-1985); a popularly called ‘the boy wonder of radio and stage’,he was a child prodigy.He started talking about films and making films, and acting andtaking great interest, a very serious interest in theatre at from a very young age.And he shot in to the limelight with a live radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’ novel ‘The War of the Worlds’.And this was also the time of the war; and he did it so authenticallythat people started running out of fear, thought that Martians or some aliens are actually invaded the world.So, the people ran about in terror and he was so authentic.His show became so popular. So, understandably many Hollywood studios got interested in him andstarted quoting him to make films for them. RKO studio was one studio; I mean, do youremember what the other four studios were? We are talking about the 40’s studio system.Student: MGMYes. MGM, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers.So, RKO studio gave him complete freedom and it was unheard of during that period;a 25 years old person who has never had any cinema experience behind him, inexperience of making a movie.And he was given total control and total freedom to make the kindof film that he wanted to.He was always extremely ambitious, let us get one thing very clear about Orson Welles.He had very justifiably high opinion of himself and he was a prodigy,he was a genius, and he was very much aware of that. So, he as was typical of Welles;he started on a very ambitious project which got aborted because of various factors.Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’,later on it was ‘Apocalypse Now’ and we also know, when we do Coppola;we are going to discuss how many problems did Coppola face while making Apocalypse Now.So, Heart of Darkness is indeed heart of darkness, andit was not an easy novel to translate, to adapt.Herman J. Mankiewicz is another important name that you should know, the great screenwriter.So, one of the greatest screenwriters ever, one Herman J. Mankiewicz that you mustknow about, and other was of that period Ben Hecht. Ben Hecht, his works; we will discusswhen we talk about the studio years, Classic Hollywood Ben Hecht; H, e, c, h, t.So, in March 1940 Herman Mankiewicz produced a draft called ‘American’; depicting the riseand fall of a publishing tycoon, press tycoon, Charles Foster Kane. And they revised andthey did six versions of that draft, and ultimately came up with a screenplay or script of Citizen Kane.Welles and Mankiewicz collaborated on that, on that draft. Now, this is how Citizen Kane was publicized.We are talking about how Canons are formed?So, Canons have to be in this day of media and publicity and press; Canons have to, people have to be toldthat you are going to watch something that you have been never watched before.And 365 days in the making and every minute of it and exciting new thrill for you;this is the way it was publicized.Radios' are most dynamic artist, the man at whose voice the nation trembled;you know a direct reference to his rendition to ‘War of the Worlds’.Now, the screen's most exciting new star.Orson Welles in the picture, Hollywood said,he would never make; at finally, he is able to make the kind of picture.Some other publicity lines; 'Everybody is talking about it', so very catchy, very shot.The classic story of power and the press, ‘I hate him, I love him, he is a scoundrel,he is a saint, he is crazy, he is a genius’; in short describing Orson Welles.Some called him a hero, others call him heal. It could be Charles Foster Kane; it could also be Orson Welles.So, this is the way you know, so boy genius, boy wonderer but also a person people love to hate.See, when you achieve such kind of success at such a young stage, young agesthen automatically you generate lot of negativity as well.So, Citizen Kane, everybody is talking about it.The fame factors, what are the contributing factors into making it in a Canon?So, first was the controversy.So, this can give you a lot of food for thought.If filmmakers generate controversies and quote publicityor generate interest in their products; so it was apparently and now it has been establishedthat it was indeed based of the life of American Newspaper-Barren, William Randolph Hearst.It was a very unflattering portrait of the man. And as we were talking about it yesterday,Hearst did his best to suppress the film. He went as far as stopping its exhibitionin theatres that he and his friends owned.Hearst, his life period (1863-1951).Hearst was inspired by the journalism of Joseph Pulitzer and he turned the newspaper into a combinationof reformist, investigative reporting and laurite sensationalism.So that was Hearst and that is also Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane. Hearst also developed a repetition foremploying the best journalist available including Ambrose Bierce, Stephen Crane.Who was a Stephen Crane?Who was Stephen Crane? That is your homework, find out or takedown these names:Mark Twain, Richard Hardy Davies and Jack London, you should know what these people are known for.And if they were all on the payroll more or less, we cannot use the wordlike payroll for Mark Twain of course, but if these people were willingly contributingfor Hearst papers then it must mean that, it must tell you how powerful he must have been.So, Hearst studied at Howard and then tookover the San Francisco examiner from his father. He acquired ‘the New York morning journal’another paper and launch the evening journal in 1896.So, some of his contributions to journalism is that,he sensationalized journalism by the introduction of banner headlines and lavish illustrations.And you could look at his chain of newspapers and that of periodicalsand magazines which included Chicago Examiner, Boston American, Cosmopolitan and Hopper’s Bazaar,so a range of magazines.And that is what we see Kane doing as well in the movie.So, Hearst has actually built for himself a Castle at San Simeon and this is paralleledin the film as Xanadu; Xanadu is of course a barrowed phrase or borrowed name from?Student: Kubla Khan.Kubla Khan, good. And he called, Hearst calledhis palace the Ranch and in the in the movie Citizen Kane again there is a reference to the Ranch.Do you remember?His second wife Susan; she lives in a place and that placehas been gifted to her as alumni by Kane, and it is also called Ranch, El Rancho.And one interesting facet about his journalism was that he believed not just in investigatingor reporting news but, also in creating news. And this is something very interesting thata magazine and news paper owners not just reporting but, also creating news;of course we know what it means, and why it is done.So, such was the impact and influence of Hearstthat at one stage movie industry got terrified by the negative publicitythat Hearst was generating about the film.So RKO was even offered money to burn the negatives of the film, do not release the picture at all.Cinema theatres as I was already telling you were asked not to exhibit the film.And after the release it achieved limited distribution,because it was and this is important; boycotted by territories owned by the big five studios.See, studio control is extremely important and the big five studios were of course;MGM, Fox paramount and Warner Brothers.So, RKO was alienated in this battle because allthe distributing territories were owned by studios and the big other five studios decided to boycott the film.So, definitely it must have, we are talking about those days whenTelevision was not such an important force. So parallelize between Hearst and Welles;both considered child geniuses. At the time of Citizen Kane, Hearst powers were already on declaim,he was 76.Welles of course was on the raise, 25. Both were obsessed with success in the profession of media.And Welles of course got very ambitious and felt thatHearst would not be able to do much damage to him, but he was wrong to a large extent.See, remember Citizen Kane as we were discussing yesterday, it often features in the best greatestfilm ever made list. It is a part of a canon, but that reputation came much later and wehave been talking about that quite frequently. When did that reputation happened?Not exactly when it was released, not immediately after it was released becausethe campaign against it was so strong.Many people never bothered with the movie. It did not even find a decent release;it did not have a very good run at the box office.We are not talking about a Sholay here which was an instant success.So, when do we have been talking about it quite frequently in this class,who were the people who established Welles?The French New wave; you see when the auteurs and people like Andre Bazin and people like Godard andTruffaut and Raine and Chabrol, they started taking interest in Hollywood cinema after the war.And after certain period when Hollywood cinema was making his presents felt in France, in Europe.So, that was the time when Welles got noticed not before that;otherwise every attempt was made to finish him.So, another major reason for its fameand this is more abide and it has got nothing to do with the controversy.So, the filmic qualities of the picture, it is indeed and excellently made film. Even today if you watch it,there never a dull movement there; it is extremely fast passed, very well directedand has some great performances.So, deeply innovative in several ways, for examplethe way he uses perspectives; use of deep focus that is increasing the field of depth on screen,taking the perspective away from centrality of image.What do you understand by centrality of image or centrality of image?Student: Focusing on a simple entity.Exactly, deep focus gave him the liberty to focus on other images as well.So, centrality is only on one object or one person was taken away. So, what he actually did was to breakcertain narrative traditions of Hollywood. Although, I am very sure he did not set outto exactly to do that but he was such an innovator that it all happened very naturally to him.So, there is a story. Although, Hollywood always believed in; when we do classic cinemaor classic Hollywood, you have to understand something, Hollywood always believed in onecredo and that was a style should never out shine story. But, Citizen Kane is one moviewhere style does out shine the story, although there is a story. The movie opens, and ifyou have watch the movie you remember how it opens; with a dying Charles Foster Kanein his Xanadu, in his estate castle. And his last words are famous, last words ‘Rosebud’.A journalist is assigned, you know it is a very un-melodramatic sequence; our hero dies,he is in his mid-seventies or late seventies and he just dies.So, a journalist is assigned to investigate the meaning of his dying words.And who are the people who have heard the dying word?We are told that there is a nurse and there was a butler. We never get to seethe butler there but we are told that the butler knows that those were the dying words.Kane’s Xanadu.And this is the place where we are taken through very luxuriously camera movement.Kane, a dying Kane while he utters his last words, he is holding a bowl, a glass bowlwhich has an image miniature; cottage like thing covered in snow.And what does it mean?It is quite metaphorical; his childhood, hacking back to his childhood that is where he belong.This is the place where he comes from. Far, far away before, he was a given away by hisparents to be raised by; he has just, we are given a plot, there is a back story.And in short we are told that his parents are very poor. They run a very modest inn somewheredeep down in America but he suddenly comes into huge inheritance. And one condition isthat the boy should be taken away from his parents and he should be raised by a certaingroup of people and his guardians are a group of bankers, and they are the people who controlhis inheritance and they are the people who have a complete authority or control over him.And they can raise him the way they want away from his parents.And his last word, ‘Rosebud’ they have a connection to his childhood.So, while he dies and the glass bowl falls in to a million of pieces and then we are,the journalist; we never see his face very clearly, this is very interesting.We never get to see the journalist who is investigating Rosebud, very clearly, never see his face very clearly.So, the first person he meets is second wife; Kane’s second wife, Susan.She is an alcoholic. And she lives very lonely on a place called El Rancho, the Ranch.During his investigation, the course of investigation he also meets Bernstein; Kane’s collaboratorin launching Kane’s first newspaper ‘The Inquirer’.He also meets Jedediah Lelandplayed by Joseph Cotton; Kane’s best friend and also a theatre critic.The journalist also comes in contact with a Kane’s butler; Raymond who reveals detailsof Kane’s life after Susan had left him. Now, you must know that this device,this narrative device was followed in Velvet Goldmine by Todd Haynes, where Christian Bale, a veryyoung Christian Bale investigates a death or suicide or murder of a popular rock starof the British 60's cultural scenarios; Evan McGregor and who else?Student: Jonathan Rhys and Toni.Good.So, narrative structure is important.Journalistic, what we find on screen is a journalistic reconstruction of Kane’s life;what we get are fragments from here and there about Kane and then, how journalist read that,investigate; not just exactly investigate but the journalist who is doing the case,who is doing the reporting he reconstructs Kane’s life. A series of witnesses withKane's associates give us multiple perspectives on Kane, so you can also assume that thismovie would have been an influence on Kurosawa’s Rashomon, multiple perspectives.And this kind of device, you know that there is no fixed or stable truth; this was a device whichwent on to inform all works by Welles,which is the illusionary nature of images and the difficulty of discovering the truth.And this is something that you find in most of his works including another popular film;The Magnificent Ambersons.So, we get to know about his childhood lose, the time when he was taken away from his mother.And you can perhaps see, a child playing in the background; a very clearly depicted,so he is an entity on which you are focused. So, taking the focus away from the centralityof image, that is what I was talking about; using deep focus treatment and you can alsosee the child through the window playing in the snow. So, those happy childhood days andthat is what he remembers when he looks at that glass or crystal bowl at the end of his line.He establishes the inquirer, and looks at the image of Orson Welles’.What kind of an image is this?Student: Sort of ambition.Ambition in what way; I mean I am talking about the camera angle, the way he is projected.It is not very straight forward. There is an angle given to it.Student: Entire world is looking at him!Perhaps, focus of attention;focus of attention surrounded by stacks, files of his creation, something he is obsessed about.When we were doing montage, we watched this scene.He was first married to Emily Norton, president’s niece. And how as the distance between them grow,the distance between the dining table also increases; remember that scene, so that famous montage.So, they drift apart and this is very symbolically suggested through the scene at the dining table.He starts having an extramarital affair with an actress, a stage actress.And once he is caught by his wife. He decides to divorce his wife and marry Susan who is a struggling actress.And then what is the outcome of this marriage?Who remember the movie?He is an ambitious man, so he does not like his wife to remain nobody;he was once married to the niece of the president and he does not want his second wifeto be a Little Miss Nobody.So, he encourages her plan or her ambitions of becoming a grandor great Opera Singer, and even builds an opera house for her but the irony, the tragedyis that she does not live up to the expectations. She is just does not have it in her.The marriage crumbles because of his ambitions for her.She is not that ambitious but she is force to be ambitious.And then his gradual but consistence disappointment in her and themarriage crumbles; she turns into an alcoholic and ends up lonely in the place called ‘El Rancho’.We are also told about Kane’s political ambitions and political career.And this image, a famous image from Citizen Kane,it tells you lot about the man’s megalomania.His own image looming large in the background while he points towards it; so, larger thanlife persona as entire world should revolve around his ambitions and his aspirations.When the end comes, he is left alone in his own palace.And you see multiple images another beautifully shot, multiple images.And this was another very in a personal favorite cameraor cinematographic style of Welles; he made another popular movie called ‘The Lady from Shanghai’with Rita Hayworth in which he uses multiple images of Rita Hayworth in the film.So, very innovative movie, lots of images which are or scenes which were quite experimentaland innovative for those days. And the mystery of Rosebud remains unsolved; what comes acrossis journalistic reconstruction of the man’s image, he was like this multiple perspectives on the man.But what was Rosebud; no one ever guess to know except the audience.And what do we see?A Skating board at the sledge, the boy use to play with when he was with his parents.And people says, this is one of the worthless item, let’s dispose it off.But for him that was his life although he has amassed so much of wealth and curiousand priceless pieces of art, works of art from all over the world.So, at the end when people take stock of his wealth, this is one thing that is considered uselessand let’s throw it away; a very ironic.Other great works by Orson Welles,The Magnificent Ambersons.Would you like to comment on anything? Any scene you remember from Citizen Kane?Let us talk about it; I am just presuming that you at least aware of the film,except the Montage that we watched the other day. Are there any scenes from Citizen Kane whichspring to your mind?Palery?Ranjith?Student: In the beginning, when they are describing splendors of Xanadu,they show that it even has Mini zoo and all sorts of animals in it.Gondolas, Golf course, all sorts of things are there.So, we are taking you know very leisurely across the state, estate.Anything else you would like to remember or talk about?Student: He buys all the papers and changes the reviews about Susan’s performancethat shows his power actually.That was his? Student: That shows his power; like how hebuys all the Newspapers and changes the reviews of Susan, so that is enough to show.So, rigging the reviews for Susan. Susan at one point is given very negative reviews,and she is a very mediocre singer but he buys the newspapers and forces; I think that isthe point of dispute between Jadediah and him because he forces Jadediah, because hisbest friend who has a certain credibility as a critic and when he tries to buy his friendover his wife for his own personal ambition then there is a rift between the two.Good observations.‘Touch of evil’ any comments on that?Student: Long shot.A lengthy shot, a long take…Student: They takes exactly 5 minutes to that,.Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh; where Orson Welleshimself plays a detective with ambiguous morals, walking with a walking stick.So, it considered one of the best film noirs of all time; ‘A Touch of Evil’.How many of you have watched ‘A Touch of Evil’?Good. ‘Chimes at Midnight’ is a re-working of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.He also made Othello, The Lady from Shanghai.‘Mr. Arkadin’ that is one of his later film or directed films. But if you go to IMDB, you will finda whole list of films in which he acted.So, he was an actor; he remained an actor for a very long period of his life.So, Hollywood finished him off for a variety of reasons;particular, the most important reason was his own ambitions. He would not toe the lineand you are as good as your last success in movie business; especially where a stakesare so high and when your films do not bring the returns but you still want to do thingson your own ways, then it means trouble. So, that is what happened to Orson Welles.However, his reputation lives on; basically based on ‘Citizen Kane’, also ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’is a very noted, notable, very worthy film, a worthy successor to ‘Citizen Kane’,‘A Touch of Evil’ too. And ‘The Lady from Shanghai’, because of star presenceof Rita Hayworth was a reasonable success as well.So, Orson Welles left America in the 1950’s; like Chaplin, he too was accused of beinga communist and he was blacklisted during the McCarthy period.Do you remember any notable names from the McCarthy period who were also blacklisted?Student: Elia Kazan?Elia Kazan, yes.Charlie Chaplin,the other day we were talking about the Charlie Chaplin. Elia Kazan actually named names, but CharlieChaplin was just blacklisted and he had to live in an exile; Welles too.He returned once that period subsided, but could never achieve the same height becausethe world had changed by. The entire movie universe had changed by the time he returnedto Hollywood, so he could never attained the same degree of freedom and success,and he just smashed on mainly as an actor.His legacy; what are the things we remembered him for.So, these are his contributions; first the use of deep focus,and a very innovative use of montage.I may not be perhaps being able to do ‘Battleship Potemkin’ withyou but in Battleship Potemkin; we have one of the earliest examples of brilliantly done montage.Which is that scene? Odessa Steps. How many of you do not know? I get lot of answers here.Are there people who do not know about? Do not know?What happens is that, I think, I refered to it once during one of the earlier classeswhen there is massacre of innocent people by the Tsar’s soldiers.And all, the entire sequence takes place on this great huge Odessa Steps.And we were also talking about intersexuality; inter textualreference; so this scene was beautifully eluded in which great movie?Not too old.I was watching that scene this morning on You Tube;it is very fresh in my mind.It is homage to Eisenstein.Student: Godfather?Godfather, yes but Godfather does not have any step sequence.That is a baptism massacre; remembered, while Sofie Coppola is gettingdeputized, Sofie Coppola is actually the baby who gets deputized. So, great montage butnot the one I am talking about. It is the direct reference, massacre taking place on steps;great movie, a wonderful star cast.Brain De Palma, does it mean anything to you?Referencing what Battleship Potemkin’s Odessa steps, I am surprised; it is ‘The Untouchables’.‘The Untouchables’ you must remember this. These things are must for you to know.And the scene features Kevin Costner as a sergeant or detective, Elliott Nessand a very young, very new Andy Garcia.It also had Sean Connery in his only, one and only Oscar winning performance.And Robert De Niro as Al Capone; set in Chicago during the prohibition period, 1930’s.So, Robert De Niro, playing Al Capone one of his few negative roles whereas Kevin Costner andSean Connery are the heroes; and they replicate the Odessa Steps, so montage.There is no montage in Brain De Palma.Narrative structure; reconstructing a personality,reconstructing a series of events that is one thing, that that is a legacy of Orson Welles.He did not believe in linear, the idea of the concept of linear story telling;nothing wrong with that, linear story telling is of course, I mean look ‘The Godfather’1st part, what kind of a story telling is that?Very linear, very traditional.What happens to the 2nd part?He just plays around with the narrative, jumps back and forth, you remember?Please, this is your homework for your long week end; Thursday through Sundaywatch Godfather part1 and part 2. Palery, do not look at me with such disgust.I am giving you something very nice to do for four days. Godfather part 1 and part 2 that is your homework,watch the movies. We are going to talk about The Godfather trilogy as canonical text on Monday.So narrative structure, I am interested innarrative structure as introduced by Orson Welles and then how people followed him.So, that was his legacy. So, Coppola was of course, he belongs to that school of Orson Welles.So, when he was, this is very interesting all of you should know this, that when Coppolawas first offered the Godfather; it was based on a novel by Mario Puzo. He did not like it.He was insulted, deeply offended. He said what this is? I am after all you know, I comefrom; he came from a famous film school not NYU, I think it was UCLA and they were alltrained in the art of cinema. And taking somebody else’s material and then adopting it wasdefinitely not his scene, he did not like it; he did not want to do it.So, it was turned down by many people and Coppola definitely did not want to do that.Why?Paramount pictures produced it, remember that; so, one big studio backing up.And he was told that if you makethe movie, this is the kind of movie which will give you freedom to make any kind of movie later in your life.Therefore, because he could make Godfather, because he made Godfatherthe way the studio wanted him to do. Godfather second was done in his way.So, he played around with a narrative structure. He introduced a new character. Robert De Niroplaying a young Godfather, and that was bravura performance. I mean, it brought Robert De Niro from,you know straight into the spotlight. What was his earlier works?Only ‘Means Streets’, not Taxi Driver, only one.He got Taxi Driver while he was still doingthe Godfather because he had done Mean Streets with Scorsese and there, was this was a particulargang, group of people, all new Hollywood filmmakers. Francis Coppola, Brian De Palma,who else?Student: Lucas, SpielbergOf course Lucas, Spielberg but they came slightly later.So, Scorsese and Di Niro go back along the end.And he had already worked in Mean streets and we should be doingMean Streets very soon in this class. So, because of that on account of doing Mean Streets,Di Niro got his part in the Godfather. And he did a part which is not in the noveland Coppola made it the way he wanted to. So again think of, think of Orson Welles’ influenceson the way stories started been told. Of course, changes would not happen all of a sudden buthe had a far reaching influence on a certain group of filmmakers particularly, the new Hollywood filmmakers.So, the second Godfather is a tribute that school of filmmaking, thefirst god father is a very traditional film. Therefore, when we talk about it as a Canon;we will see how different it is from a movie like Citizen Kane. Godfather, the first GodFather follows all the rules, all the rules of the game. So, that is how you should thinkabout films; you know make connections, comparison, and influences, do not watch movies in a vacuum.So, the other day someone was talking about Mani Ratnam’sStudent: IruvarI was discussing it with my family and theyagree with you, all those people who have watched the movie.Do you, can you compare it with Mani’s other works?Is there any point, a thread that runs?Student1: I cannot take like that. Student2: The good and bad are very well distinguishedin his last two films Raavan and Kadal.Do you agree, Swetha? You seem to be a fan.Student: I did not appreciate Raavan; the camera work and all are fine enough but thestory is too problematic, is too much complication.Everyone is out of group that, they were bore to their breath.And what I heard about Kadal is that, he gone to the other direction where everyone is either good or bad.So, then it is morein a ‘Bombay’ tradition.In ‘Bombay’ also there are good people and bad people. But, Bombay became a successbecause of you see, there was a controversy; so the controversy does play an importantrole in making a movie notable or noticeable.Some other movies which follow Orson Welles’ school of filmmaking;Apocalypse Now, the 2nd Godfather, Wall Street. Why do I mention Wall Street?Wall Street after all has a very straight forward narrative; greed is good,Gordon Gekko; one of the greatest characters ever. Have you watched Wall Street?Please do; please take it down, Wall Street.Who directed it?Student: Oliver Stone.Oliver Stone, Charlie sheen and Michael DouglasStudent: There is Charlie’s father alsoOf course, both actually Martin, Charlie both are present in as father and son.Martin is the good guy.Michel Douglas won his Oscar for the movie.You must watch it. And why do we mention Wall Street then?Greed is good; I just give you the clue.Student: AmbitionAmbition and the pit fall of over ambition, and thus the credo Charles Foster Kane lives by too.Perfection; obviously because of the narrative.And that is what Godard remarks;‘everyone will always owe him everything’ that is how influential he was considered.Megalomania of the central character; who we see much later in the movie.Innovations, montage, use of sound. What was smart about Citizen Kane’s sound?There lots of overlapping sounds.People talking over each other, things happening you know while some one is talking