The Godfather – The Restaurant Scene (murder of Solozzo and McCluskey)


·         This scene is important as it shows Michael’s commitment to the family. He commits his first murders using a gun which has been planted in the bathroom of the restaurant they are dining in.

·         The scene takes place in a restaurant called “Louis Italian American Restaurant”. This is an authentic location for the scene and adds realism. Fundamentally, it is very believable. The scene takes place at night, immediately adding to the ominous tone. This is reinforced by the relentless beat of the music.

·         The three men sit around the table and are presented through over-the-shoulder shots. This creates a sense of the audience simply watching as an outsider. Michael’s face is intense and clearly suspicious of the men he is talking to. His face is cast down, and he looks up at S and M as though he is sizing them up.

·         Initial conversation is small-talk, about the quality of the restaurant. The facial expressions of Solozzo and Michael reveal that they clearly want to get business done and any small-talk is an unwelcome distraction. Importantly, McCluskey seems oblivious to the danger throughout the scene. He is an outsider because he is Irish, he represents the law, and he does not speak Italian.

·         It is interesting that as the wine is poured, there is no speech, reflecting the discomfort of the participants, but Solozzo’s and Michael’s eyes are darting, quickly moving, trying to evaluate the situation.

·         When Solozzo and Michael engage in Italian conversation, they hunch themselves forwards, as though they are protecting a secret. The body language indicates the secrecy of the content of their discussion.

·         The conversation is conducted in Italian, but is dotted with English words to illustrate the mixing cultures. Michael is not yet fluent in the language and often has to pause to clarify what he means. This emphasises that he is a second generation immigrant, different to Vito, and one who is not entirely absorbed by the mafia culture. This later changes, of course, when he is exiled to Sicily and he becomes an “authentic” Sicilian, fluent in the language of his father’s country. (“He uses the phrase, “Como se dice?” which means, “How do you say?”) Throughout, McCluskey ignores the two and stuffs his face.

·         A long shot of the restaurant establishes how empty it is. This again indicates the secret nature of the meeting.

·         Michael demands, in English, that there be no more attempts to assassinate his father, but Solozzo cannot offer this reassurance. From this point, Solozzo is dead as that was the most basic demand Michael needed to be met. When Solozzo asks for a truce Michael excuses himself to the bathroom. The air of suspicion is reinforced as Solozzo searches Michael for a second time on his way out.

·         The diegetic sound is turned up as Michael departs. We hear his footsteps echoing on the tiled floor, and for the first time we hear the elevated train running outside the restaurant. This is a key sound motif which shows the growing tension of the scene.

·         In the bathroom, the noise of the train is increased again, as Michael searches for the hidden gun, placed there by Sonny earlier in the day.

·         The editing at this point cuts back to Solozzo and McCluskey, providing a contrast to the anxiety of Michael’s search. However, the longer he is away, the more suspicious the men in the restaurant become, and this is shown in McCluskey repeatedly looking towards the bathroom.

·         As Michael prepares to leave the bathroom, the elevated train sound is reintroduced and is now louder than before, dominating the scene. Michael smooths his hair in order to appear relaxed, and this in itself reveals that he is nervous about committing the murders.

·         When he emerges, we have a long over-the-shoulder shot which is intended to show Solozzo and McCluskey from Michael’s point of view. The audience at this point is not merely an external viewer; they have a first person perspective on the scene. As Solozzo speaks to Michael in Italian, the camera slowly zooms in on his face, showing his anxiety. The audience is now aware of the fact that Michael knows he is about to cross a boundary, and that there is no coming back from the actions he is about to commit. As the camera draws in on his nervous face, the elevated train noise comes in at its loudest, indicating the turmoil in Michael’s head, and the forceful actions about to occur.

·         When the pitch of the elevated train reaches its height, it appears that something snaps for Michael. He stands and shoots Solozzo in the head. The special effects show the blood spray out behind him, and the murder is sudden, highlighting the unglamorous, realistic portrayal of events. McCluskey is slow to react and the edit cuts to a mid-shot framing McCluskey and Michael. A second shot is fired into McCluskey’s throat and the horror of the murder comes through in the diegetic sound, as we hear McCluskey gurgle his own blood. A final shot is fired into McCluskey’s head, killing him. The relative quiet of the scene, now the train has passed, highlights the diegetic gunshot sounds, giving them dramatic power.

·         The realism of the scene is additionally shown in the clumsy way McCluskey’s body falls forwards, tipping the table over. Again, there is nothing glamorous or choreographed about the murders. They are shown in all their crass brutality, and this makes it hard for an audience to sympathise with Michael. He has gone from hero to anti-hero.

·         The camera cuts to a mid-shot as Michael briskly leaves, dropping the gun as he has been told to. The silence of the restaurant maintains the tension right until he exits.

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