There’s a scene in Serendipity, an otherwise forgettable rom-com, where the John Cusack character holds forth on The Godfather series. He speaks of how Part 2 is a great movie, maybe even better than Part 1, but it works so well only because you’ve seen Part 1.
This might serve to explain why I chose to write my first freeze frame post about what is considered the weakest link of the trilogy.
There’s a party scene somewhere around the middle of Part 3 where Michael Corleone’s son Anthony is playing some music. After he’s just finished playing something from Cavalleria Rusticana (a piece I first heard of when I read Love Story), Anthony says he’s got a surprise for his dad. He picks up a guitar and plays an oldSicilian song from the town of Corleone. It is called Brucia La Terra (My earth is burning).
We have heard this music before, during those scenes in Sicily when Michael was a refugee from justice and fell in love with Apollonia. For me, the events of the three movies until then hit me all at once during that scene, as the music played in the background. When the scene cuts back to the present, you see Michael in tears.
Somewhere, someday long ago, there was a Michael who had the force of will to defy his father and chart his own course. When his father was shot, it was he who died.