The best opening movie scenes (Part 3)
The Godfather (1972)
My heart wanted to put this at number one but my head won over. Anyone who knows me personally understands what The Godfather means to me. This is my favourite film of all time, and further more, I think it is as close to perfection as any movie will ever manage to get. It is emotionally and aesthetically extraodinary and just thinking about what that film manages to achieve in the space of 3 hours is aweinspiring.
But the opening of The Godfather is a very understated affair – but don’t let that fool you. What happens in the Don’s study is very profound indeed. From the very moment the undertaker utters the words “I believe in America”, we are treated to a crash course on what is most important in this film’s world – honour, revenge, fear, and most important of all, respect.
What Marlon Brando and Salvator Corsitto do in this scene is just incredible. This is essentially just two guys in a room having a conversation but they exude so much more. Honour, revenge, fear and respect – all from just one conversation. No fight scenes, no explosions, no montages – just two blokes talking.
The tight shots Coppella uses and the dark blacks of Willis’ camera… (*sighs). It makes me pine for this era of cinema – you rarely see filmmakers of today rely so heavily on the wits of their actors and cinematographers.
You want to hear something crazy, apparently Scream was released in 1996 – I was 10 years old. By the time I got round to watching Scream, it was already infamous at our school and you had no choice but to watch it, despite being underage.
Anyway, I really don’t like fright flicks – I scare far too easily and spend the majority of the time behind a cushion instead of taking in any of the story. But there is something different about Scream, it just didn’t rely on cheap gorey scare tactics – it is a clever, intelligent and funny film – all of which comes through strongely in its opening scene.
Bet money that everyone who saw this film didn’t expect a bonifide Hollywood star to be killed off so early in the film – and Scream was lauded for this surprise but the scene is much more than that. It is a portrait in cleverly and patiently escalating the fear factor within the scene. I didn’t realise there was anything wrong until things had already turned nasty – the switch to violence was a geniune surprise but it didn’t feel out of place, you just felt stupid for being conned that easily. This scene created new rules for future horror films to follow – it’s that dope.
(To be continued…)
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