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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Great Last Scenes: The Godfather

Year: 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Great Because...: If there was ever a finale more heavy with symbolism, I don't think I've seen it. These final moments say it all: what Michael has become, what he has abandoned in the process, and how life for everyone around him will be irrecovably changed.

Michael Corleone has just consolidated his power and brought a renewed sense of calm to the business side of his family. The personal side of his family, however, is another matter. Kay, having been told that Michael ordered the murder of his brother-in-law, Carlo, confronts him, desperate for him to confirm that he's still the man she thought he was. Michael denies any wrongdoing and, for a moment, Kay is appeased.

Kay leaves the room, turning back just in time to see Michael officially confirmed as "Don Corleone." As she watches her worst fears being realized, the door to Michael's office is closed on her, locking her out of part of his life forever. There are no words during this final moment but absolutely none are required; Diane Keaton's face says everything that could possibly need to be said. The division the door represents is not just between Michael and Kay, but between the idealistic/good Michael who wants to be different from his family and the dark/bad Michael who is capable of anything. It's an amazing, spellbinding close to a great film.

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