Godfather

I was never a huge fan of any of the Godfather movies until I watched the entire trilogy over the period of a week. (The Godfather – Part III is the dud of the series, infamously diminished by the casting of Sofia Coppola as Michael Corleone’s daughter. She can’t act. That’s not the only problem with the film, just the most obvious. It might be best to pretend Part III doesn’t exist.) The Godfather (Parts 1 and 2) are so good, so rich in character and story, so masterfully acted and directed, there’s nothing I can say about the films that hasn’t been said with greater insight by hundreds of critics already.

Check out this one paragraph from the linked DVD Talk review: “Religion is important in The Godfather. In all of the films, sacred events are used as cover for the sin of murder, be it the christening in episode I or the street fair in the flashbacks in II, when young Vito (Robert De Niro) goes after Fanucci (Gastone Moschin). Notice, too, in that latter scene, Fanucci gets an orange on his way to the assassin’s bullet. Coppola often uses poetic imagery to tie together different events across this vast timeline. Oranges always foreshadow some kind of violence or death — older Vito (Marlon Brando) is getting oranges when he is shot, and later eating one when he eventually dies, in one of the most poignant death scenes in all of movie history. So, too, is Michael eating an orange when he is plotting various hits near the end of part II and again in the final scene of part III. Though not a recurring theme, one of my favorite images in the movie is in part I when Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana) is being strangled. Coppola steps out of the room and films the attack through a glass pane decorated with a fish pattern. Later, when Michael and Sonny (James Caan) and the others are informed of Luca’s death, it’s with one of the movie’s most quoted lines: ‘Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.'” That’s just a taste of what’s going on in The Godfather (Parts 1 and 2). Francis Ford Coppola was in the zone when he made these movies. The genius of the filmmaking reveals itself more with each viewing. Damn, I think I’ll watch them again right now. See ya!

Esmé

I’ve never met anyone with the name Esmé. The one and only time I’ve seen it is in J.D. Salinger‘s short story, “For Esmé — with Love and Squalor.” It’s a masterpiece. It’s a quiet story about loneliness and compassion. The Wikipedia entry for the story states: “Lack of purity and innocence in the adult world, love of childhood itself, and the power of words and writing are among the story’s themes.” Okay, that too. It’s the one short story I make sure to read every couple years. There is something in the follow excerpt that resonates for me, always has.

Now, for the third time since he had returned from the hospital that day, he opened the woman’s book and read the brief inscription on the flyleaf. Written in ink, in German, in a small, hopelessly sincere handwriting, were the words “Dear God, life is hell.” Nothing led up to or away from it. Alone on the page, and in the sickly stillness of the room, the words appeared to have the stature of an uncontestable, even classic indictment. X stared at the page for several minutes, trying, against heavy odds, not to be taken in. Then, with far more zeal than he had done anything in weeks, he picked up a pencil stub and wrote down under the inscription, in English, “Fathers and teachers, I ponder ‘What is hell?’ I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” He started to write Dostoevski’s name under the inscription, but saw — with fright that ran through his whole body — that what he had written was almost entirely illegible. He shut the book.

The entire story, along with just about everything else Salinger has written, including his uncollected works, are available online at freeweb.hu/tchl/salinger/. My guess is Salinger’s lawyers will have the site shut down ASAP.