A few weeks ago I posted about the small flaws that occasionally appear in features and TV productions. Even though we strive for perfection, I’ve always found them charming in how they call to mind the presence of the living, breathing people who created the piece. You can find one in most every show if you look hard enough, but during my umpteenth viewing of The Godfather, Part II, I fell upon what might be the granddaddy of them all.
It comes during the scene in which the neighborhood thug Fanucci hops into the cab of a truck being driven by the young Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro). The camera is moving with the vehicle, shooting across the passenger side in a raking two-shot. Things play out flawlessly until the 01:51:08 mark, when we’re treated to a five-frame long, ghost-like image of director Francis Coppola – right in the center of frame. There’s no doubt it’s the big man, looking young and vital with his beard and glasses and headphones over his ears. Caused by freak reflections off a windshield and the glass filter pack in the camera’s matte box, the apparition is so quick it would’ve been invisible to the camera operator and everyone else on the set.
I always knew there was something odd going on in that moment; until recently I never bothered to slow things down for a closer look. The Navajos would call it a ch’ihónít’i, an imperfection that represents the part of the artist’s being that has gone into the creation. There must be an Italian equivalent. I laughed out loud when the mystery was solved and now find myself loving this classic movie more than ever!