Hollywood Renaissance-The Godfather Essay Example
Hollywood Renaissance-The Godfather Essay Example

Hollywood Renaissance-The Godfather Essay Example

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  • Pages: 5 (1364 words)
  • Published: December 21, 2017
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Discuss to what extent The Godfather Part 1 is a product of transformation in Hollywood since the 'Classic' period.

In this essay you should consider any continuities with the classical period, as well as the changes that emerge from the late 1960's onward. Address any issues in the film that arise from the social and historical context of American society at the time. Also include aspects of the film that are related to cinematic developments in other parts of the world.The Godfather has been heralded as one of the best films ever made, a judgement relevant even by today's standards. It, among other accomplishments succeeded in defining a genre.1 Obtaining a staggering ten academy award nominations after it's release in 1972.

A year that marked the beginning of a period of cinematic innovation in Hollywood2 referred to as 'The Golden Age'. This period undermined and ch


allenged the conventions of the traditional Hollywood style, not only to satisfy the need to captivate and entertain a new audience but also as a result of historical influences in American at the time. In this essay I will discuss how The Godfather shares conventions and continuities with the classical Hollywood period while undoubtedly remaining a product of the transformation in Hollywood. I will also discuss how European cinema and the historical context of violence in American society at the time had a profound influence on The Godfather.In order to discuss how The Godfather shares continuities with Classic Hollywood cinema one has to define it.

However as"...Hollywood [cinema].

..included hundreds of filmmakers and thousands of films, and it existed for over six decades...

it might seem impossible to circumscribe a distinctive 'group style'."One can nevertheles

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list some of the characteristics that outline Classic Hollywood. Narrative is the basic formal concern in the Hollywood group style and unity is a basic attribute of the film form. The film strives to be realistic and to conceal its artifice through techniques such as 'continuity editing' and invisible storytelling. The film should be comprehensible and unambiguous and have an emotional fundamental appeal. Although one cannot state that the narrative structure of The Godfather, and the film as a whole is uncomplex and unambiguous one can argue that the events in the narrative occur chronologically and that cause and effect serve to move the narrative along.

Coppola obviously focused on the narrative structure of The Godfather as throughout the film carefully constructed climax's are formed that shape a definitive conclusion at the end. In fact the film has been praised as a result of its ability to weave the often-disparate layers of the story together into a cohesive whole. Therefore as the narrative structure has aspects of compliance with traditional Hollywood cinema so does the use of editing and cinematography. Coppola uses 'continuity editing' to ensure the action flows coherently from one shot to the next. He also creates idealistic visual imagery by using the 'dissolve technique' another form of continuity editing.

As far as cinematography is concerned, the aim was to create a realistic picture and therefore the film made little use of zooms or pans or any other camera movement. The theme of realism pervades the movie in stylistic elements such as settings, costumes and make-up. The settings are realistic and detailed. The costumes are functional and fit the time period and the make-up in

the Godfather is mainly used for realistic purposes such as, to age characters effectively.Although I have referred mainly to the stylistic elements that make up the The Godfather it is clear that the film shares these continuities with the Classic Hollywood period.

The film abides by some of the conventions that shape the first age of Hollywood cinema however at the same time it subverts the very conventions it uses and highlights its differences, making it to a certain extent a product of transformation in Hollywood cinema.While Coppola uses continuity editing for a realistic effect, he subverts this with the use of 'montage'. Those forms of cutting that deliberately draw attention to the juxtaposition of a series of images. The use of montage became a characteristic of 'the golden age' of cinema after the 1960's and The Godfather explores this technique throughout the film but perhaps the most famous example is the baptism sequence. Here images of a baby being baptised are cut with images of hit men preparing and then committing brutal murders. This sequence is as devastating as it is effective.

The facade of realism that the film portrays can be accredited to a common goal of Hollywood renaissance cinema to achieve greater realism among its films. In The Godfather this is portrayed in the 'mise en scene' and the brilliant acting as each character is molded into a distinct, complex individual8A feature of Genre's is that they are always fluid and constantly changing. Hollywood Renaissance films were marked by their ability to rework old genres to develop new or merely different genres. The Godfather is renowned for redefining the gangster genre.

Gangster films emerged in

the early 1930's and their gangsters were characterised as gangsters who were "poor and stemmed from immigrant stock...they became criminals to make money and their world impinged on the respectable world.

"These films such as Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, Smart Money and Scarface differed from The Godfather in that in the latter, the gangster figure was portrayed as a tragic hero. A reason for this is perhaps as a result of the Production Code disappearing, so too did the need for retribution from the gangster's crimes allowing the 'modern day' gangsters to be shown in a more positive light. Coppola's exploration into the changes of Hollywood Renaissance cinema in his film shows how this film is quintessentially a product of this 'golden age'.The Godfather also addresses issues such as war and violence and while we need to be wary of postulating a direct correspondence between society and cinema we also need to be wary of condemning it's absence.

It is for this reason that I feel it is necessary to mention the historical context of violence that took place before the film was released. Although the film is set in August in 1945, just after WW2 it was released in 1972. A time when America is undergoing great social and political upheaval. Devastating violence such as the Vietnam War, the My Lai massacre and the Cambodia bombings have become a part of the lives of the American people and the same violence is represented and explored in the film as 23 murders flash the screen. The corrupt police officers that are shown in The Godfather mirror the US government at the time as the government preached

democracy and freedom but failed to uphold these ideals.

One of the final features that Hollywood renaissance cinema upheld was that it is was deeply influenced by other European cinema. Coppola is influenced mainly by French New Wave and Italian Neo-realism cinema. I have mentioned Coppola's use of montage for dramatic juxtaposition of shots, this technique as well as the lighting techniques that Coppola makes use of are influenced by European cinema. The term for the technique of using light and darkness to accentuate one another is an Italian term called Chiaroscuro. Also the idea of 'auteur directors' arose in the 1970's in Hollywood renaissance cinema influenced by the French New Wave directors that insisted they were authors of their films.

Coppola is an example of an auteur director as he both wrote and directed The Godfather.It has always been known what a celebrated film The Godfather is, every other gangster movie has been judged by it's brilliance and few films, no matter what genre will ever achieve ten academy award nominations. What was not clear however was whether The Godfather really was a product of the Hollywood renaissance period. By considering the continuities and conventions that this film shares with conventional cinema and discussing how it also defied these conventions, exploring the changes in cinema that emerged after the 1960's.

It is now clear that The Godfather is most certainly a product of the Hollywood transformation period.

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