Great Scene: “It Happened One Night”

October 10th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion by Bretton Zinger: The 1934 movie It Happened One Night, screen play by Robert Riskin. IMDB plot summary:

A spoiled heiress, running away from her family, is helped by a man who’s actually a reporter looking for a story.

Peter Warne (Clark Gable) attempts to school Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) on the fine art of hitchhiking.

Some background:

* This was the first film to win the Oscar “grand slam” (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Screenplay).

* When director Frank Capra asked Claudette Colbert to expose her leg for the hitchhiking scene, she at first refused. Later, after having seen the leg of her body double, she changed her mind insisting that “that is not my leg!”

* Claudette Colbert complained nearly every day during the making of the film. On the last day of shooting, she told a friend “I just finished making the worst picture I’ve ever made”.

This scene unfolds beautifully:

Beginning: Life on the road including Ellie struggling to walk in her shoes, Peter plucking a piece of hay (from the night before) from Ellie’s teeth, and Peter’s discourse on the virtue of raw carrots (they have no money for food).

Middle: Peter’s philosophy and technique on getting a ride using his thumb and body language… which fails miserably.

End: Ellie gives it a shot using her leg to stop the approaching car.

The scene is noteworthy for many reasons. Here are three. First, it represents a switch in the dynamic between the two whereby Ellie helps solve their problem, not Peter. Second, there is a sexual subtext in Ellie showing her leg. And third, the fact she would do that suggests how far she has come in loosening up.

By the way, the carrot bit of business is a setup for a later payoff. Here Ellie can’t imagine eating a raw carrot. Later she does, again a sign of her transformation. And you do know this scene was the inspiration for the animated character Bugs Bunny?

How about you?

What’s your take on this scene? Why does it work so well? What takeaways are there for us?

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

Thanks for the suggestion, Bretton! If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “The Big Lebowski”

October 9th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion by James Schramm: The 1998 movie The Big Lebowski, written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen. IMDB plot summary:

“Dude” Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire Lebowski, seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help get it.

In this scene, Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) and The Dude (Jeff Bridges) bid farewell to Theodore Donald ‘Donny’ Kerabatsos (Steve Buscemi).

Here is text of Walter’s benediction:

Donny was a good bowler, and a good man. He was one of us. He was a man who loved the outdoors… and bowling, and as a surfer he explored the beaches of Southern California, from La Jolla to Leo Carrillo and… up to… Pismo. He died, like so many young men of his generation, he died before his time. In your wisdom, Lord, you took him, as you took so many bright flowering young men at Khe Sanh, at Langdok, at Hill 364. These young men gave their lives. And so would Donny. Donny, who loved bowling. And so, Theodore Donald Karabotsos, in accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean, which you loved so well. Good night, sweet prince.

Such a great scene and for many reasons:

* Let’s start with the fact Donny’s ashes are inside a Folger’s coffee can.

* How about Walter veering off into yet another one of his diatribes about the Vietnam War, then the awkward segue back to the matters at hand: “These young men gave their lives. And so would Donny, who loved bowling.” Yes, Walter went far afield, but he brought it back… with bowling.

* Then the touching end. The Dude blows up at Walter about bringing up Vietnam, then Walter embraces the Dude, and then the Dude reveals what’s underneath his anger: Sadness at losing Donny.

What is ironic in the extreme is that Donny, who always seems to be behind everyone else about everything, a true innocent, he is the one who gets whacked. It’s not fair. Then again, this is the Coen brothers’ universe and ‘fair’ has little to do with anything.

What’s your perspective on this scene? Why does it work? What do you take away from it?

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

Thanks for the suggestion, James! If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “Thief”

October 8th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion by jhenderson: The 1981 movie Thief, screenplay and screen story by Michael Mann. IMDB plot summary:

Becoming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safecracker agrees to do a job for the mafia, who have other plans for him.

In this scene, Frank (James Caan) meets with an old flame Jessie (Tuesday Weld).

Some background notes:

* The screenplay for this film was adapted from the novel “The Home Invaders”, written by Frank Hohimer, himself a professional thief. Hohimer was serving time in prison at the time this film was in production.

* When Frank tries to light his cigarette in the diner scene, the lighter does not work. This was not scripted. The prison story that Frank tells in his monologue is based on a letter Michael Mann received from a real inmate.

* After The Godfather (1972), this is James Caan’s favorite film of his own. He has stated that his monologue in the diner is the scene he is most proud of in his career.

It’s a 10-minute scene. All dialogue. Yeah, movies could do that 30 years ago. Why? Even though a majority of the lines are exposition, they are compelling, capped off by Frank’s monologue about his life in prison, how he fought off being “gang banged”.

The scene also has a three-act structure of its own:

Beginning: Frank presses Jessie to update him on her life which she does — illegal activities, a former lover now dead.

Middle: Frank’s monologue about prison life leading up to the revelation of a small collage he keeps folded up in his wallet as inspiration — his life, the one he wants.

End: Frank makes his pitch for Jessie to live her life with him, fill the spot in the collage he made for her. At first, she refuses, but after he makes one final plea, she agrees. Scene out.

We’d be hard-pressed to find a contemporary mainstream movie which would take up about 8% of screen time for one scene comprised of two ‘talking heads’. But this scene worked in 1981. And it works today.

What’s your perspective on this scene? Why does it work? What do you take away from it?

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

Thanks for the suggestion, jhenderson! If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “Rounders”

October 7th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion by ryanleegilmore: The 1998 movie Rounders, written by David Levien and Brian Koppelman. IMDB plot summary:

A young man is a reformed gambler who must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks.

It’s the final showdown between Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) and Teddy KGB (John Malkovich). The irony is Mike finds himself in this tense situation because of a debt, not owed by him, but his friend Worm (Edward Norton Jr.). This is literally do-or-die:

One thing about a poker scene: You can really milk the tension as the filmmakers do here in spades. With Teddy’s increasing mania, several shots of the Heavy waiting to pound on Mike, a room full of thugs… and what looks to be a shit hand being dealt Mike’s way. But there he sits: “Check… check… check.” Great stuff.

There’s a rumor floating around about Rounders 2. That’s one sequel I can get behind.

What’s your take on this scene? Why does it work so well? What takeaways are there for us?

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

Thanks for the suggestion, Rahul! If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “Michael Clayton”

October 6th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion by Rahul Prasad: The 2007 movie Michael Clayton, written and directed by Tony Gilroy. IMDB plot summary:

A law firm brings in its “fixer” to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company that he knows is guilty in a multi-billion dollar class action suit.

It’s actually two scenes, but as continuous action, they play as one. In the first part, Clayton (George Clooney) confronts Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) about information he has gathered related to the legal case and Crowder’s role in the death of Clayton’s longtime friend and associate Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson):

And then this:

This is a brilliant movie capped off by a powerful ending. The first part is almost all dialogue, the confrontation between Clayton and Crowder. The second part is almost zero dialogue, just a locked shot onto Clayton’s face as the cab drives and drives while credits roll. In Clayton’s face, we see the array of emotions roiling inside, perhaps most clearly a sense of sadness because even though he has succeeded in the eventual takedown of the chemical company, nothing will bring back his friend Edens… and nothing will allow Clayton the chance to relive his life while making different choices. He is a fixer who is broken.

As I watched the scene again, I was struck by two callbacks, one visual, one a line of dialogue. The visual is this:

Crowder: This would have to be a longer conversation and it would have to take place somewhere else.
Clayton: Where? My car?

Which, of course, brings to mind this moment:

The other is this:

Crowder: You don’t want the money?
Clayton: Keep the money. You’ll need it.
Don Jefferies: Is this fellow bothering you?
Clayton: Am I bothering you?
Don Jefferies: Karen, I’ve got a board waiting in there. What the hell’s going on? Who are you?
Clayton: I’m Shiva, the God of death.

Which recalls a line from Edens at the very end of this scene:

“I am Shiva, the God of death.”

In recalling Edens’ line to Crowder and Jefferies, Clayton provides an ironic button to the whole sordid affair, but also this: An attempt at redemption. To inflict the justice Edens wanted upon the immoral Powers That Be. But as we can see in the second part of scene, at most for Clayton it’s a pyrrhic victory.

How about you? What’s your take on the last scene from Michael Clayton?

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

Thanks for the suggestion, Rahul! If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “The Spy Who Loved Me”

October 5th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion by Jon Stark: The 1977 movie The Spy Who Loved Me, written by Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum, characters by Ian Fleming. IMDB plot summary:

James Bond investigates the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads with the help of a KGB agent whose lover he killed.

Here is the scene from the movie:

Jon’s comment about the scene: “The car chase with the Lotus that turns into a submarine. Did anyone expect it? And where else could that wild creativity actually not pull you right out of the film?”

The thing that always gets me about these super technology scenes in Bond movies is how casual Bond is when employing the devices. That elevates the cool level several notches.

How about you? Is this a favorite Bond moment for you? How about other great scenes from James Bond movies?

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

Thanks for the suggestion, Jon! If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “Saving Private Ryan”

October 4th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s Great Scene comes from Saving Private Ryan, the 1998 movie written by Robert Rodat. Via IMDB:

Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

I could have chosen some big action scenes like the assault on Omaha Beach or the final battle. Instead I selected a scene dominated by a monologue by one character: Captain Miller (Tom Hanks). An unlikely candidate for a great scene, especially since the monologue is comprised mostly of exposition, not the most cinematic of narrative elements. But watch this scene and tell me it isn’t a powerful moment.

Background: No one in Miller’s squadron knows what Miller’s personal story is, specifically what he does for a living as a civilian. Indeed, the men have been making bets on various possibilities. Here in the midst of the war, another ‘war’ has broken out between the men, guns drawn, violence threatening. Then Miller speaks:

Here is the dialogue:

I’m a schoolteacher. I teach English composition… in this little town called Adley, Pennsylvania. The last eleven years, I’ve been at Thomas Alva Edison High School. I was a coach of the baseball team in the springtime. Back home, I tell people what I do for a living and they think well, now that figures. But over here, it’s a big, a big mystery. So, I guess I’ve changed some. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve changed so much my wife is even going to recognize me, whenever it is that I get back to her. And how I’ll ever be able to tell her about days like today. Ah, Ryan. I don’t know anything about Ryan. I don’t care. The man means nothing to me. It’s just a name. But if… if going to Rumelle and finding him so that he can go home. If that earns me the right to get back to my wife, then that’s my mission.

Why is this such an effective moment? In the External World, Miller finally answers the mystery of his job by revealing he is a schoolteacher. But that’s just the text. The subtext works on multiple levels:

* The contrast between schoolteacher and leader of a squadron in this hellhole of a war surprises, even stuns the men. How could an English teacher have survived this long and led his men through battle after battle?

* The revelation personalizes Miller to the others and in doing so reminds the men that each of them is an individual with their own unique personal history, each of them is a human being, not just a warrior.

* Finally, Miller alters their goal — saving Private Ryan — a task none of the men really understands or wants to do into something they can embrace: Do it, then go back home.

In a visual medium like film, we are told to “show it, don’t say it.” And that is by and large true. However, sometimes the power of words trumps image. What we learn here is that dialogue becomes imbued with such power when the words are grounded in character, how a revelation emerging from the most basic and honest aspects of an individual’s humanity can have a transformational effect on others.

What do you think of this scene? What is your interpretation of how it works? Why is it a Great Scene? Head to comments and let me know what you think.

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “True Romance”

October 3rd, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion by Jon:

The 1993 movie True Romance written by Quentin Tarantino. Via IMDB:

Clarence marries hooker Alabama, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood, while the owners of the coke try to reclaim it.

Here is the scene from the movie:

An extended excerpt of the dialogue:

Clifford Worley: You’re Sicilian, huh?
Coccotti: Yeah, Sicilian.
Clifford Worley: Ya know, I read a lot. Especially about things… about history. I find that shit fascinating. Here’s a fact I don’t know whether you know or not. Sicilians were spawned by niggers.
Coccotti: Come again?
Clifford Worley: It’s a fact. Yeah. You see, uh, Sicilians have, uh, black blood pumpin’ through their hearts. Hey, no, if eh, if eh, if you don’t believe me, uh, you can look it up. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, uh, you see, uh, the Moors conquered Sicily. And the Moors are niggers.
Coccotti: Yes…
Clifford Worley: So you see, way back then, uh, Sicilians were like, uh, wops from Northern Italy. Ah, they all had blonde hair and blue eyes, but, uh, well, then the Moors moved in there, and uh, well, they changed the whole country. They did so much fuckin’ with Sicilian women, huh? That they changed the whole bloodline forever. That’s why blonde hair and blue eyes became black hair and dark skin. You know, it’s absolutely amazing to me to think that to this day, hundreds of years later, that, uh, that Sicilians still carry that nigger gene. Now this…

Coccotti busts out laughing.

Clifford Worley: No, I’m, no, I’m quoting… history. It’s written. It’s a fact, it’s written.
Coccotti: [laughing] I love this guy.
Clifford Worley: Your ancestors are niggers. Uh-huh.

Starts laughing, too.

Clifford Worley: Hey. Yeah. And, and your great-great-great-great grandmother fucked a nigger, ho, ho, yeah, and she had a half-nigger kid… now, if that’s a fact, tell me, am I lying? ‘Cause you, you’re part eggplant.

There is a looming sense of the inevitable in this scene, rising tension which Worley anticipates, then embraces with his increasingly brazen dialogue.

When Jon suggested this scene, a number of people said it was one of the best interchanges in movie history. How about you? What do you think of this scene from True Romance?

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

Thanks for the suggestion, Debbie! If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “Source Code”

October 2nd, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion by Debbie Moon.

The 2011 movie Source Code, written by Ben Ripley, is a good example of a ‘big’ science fiction movie wrapped in a ‘small’ context. No outer space. No aliens. No intergalactic space battles. Just a simple, yet compelling concept set in the here and now. Via IMDB:

A soldier (Colter Stevens) wakes up in someone else’s body and discovers he’s part of an experimental government program to find the bomber of a commuter train. A mission he has only 8 minutes to complete.

The main plot involves Stevens going back in time to experience the bombing again and again, the authorities who are controlling his existence through the program, sending him to find the bomber and stop it before it can happen, basically altering history.

That is an interesting plot device. However as with all good stories, there is also something else going on, something more specific to the Protagonist’s emotional life. In this case, Coleter ultimately pieces together the fact he was a soldier in Afghanistan who was – officially at least – killed in action (part of his body and his brain is being kept alive by the government as part of the Source Code program). He has an unfinished piece of business to attend to: Tell his father something.

So in the middle of the relentless go-go-go pace of the narrative, right toward the end, everything stops for this scene:

Key dialogue:

Colter: He said that the last time you guys talked was tough. And he wanted to say he was sorry.

This is the ‘ghost’ Colter Stevens carries with him, the guilt and pain of having that last confrontational conversation with his father. He hopes this phone call will provide a sense of closure. What his ‘confession’ precipitates is this response:

Colter’s Father: I just loved him so much. I wish I’d told him that.

Clearly the father has been dealing with his own ‘ghost,’ regret as well about their final interaction, a deep longing to repair history and at least express one last time his paternal affection for his son.

Thus in gaining closure for himself, Colter also enables his father to obtain some measure of peace with this response:

Colter: He knows it.

Beyond that emotional resolution, what makes the scene really pop are the cross-cuts to Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), the Air Force officer directly involved in communicating to Colter’s consciousness as part of the Source Code program. She has a transformational arc of her own, moving from an efficient cog in the wheel of the system to developing a connection with Colter. In this scene, she actually opens the chamber in which Colter’s body rests, wires connected to his skull and brain activity, putting her in direct physical proximity with him for the first time. Check out the three shots from 1:49-2:15 in the clip:

– Colleen looks at Colter
– Image of Colter’s unconscious body
– Colleen studies Colter’s body, up and down his torso for a full 17 seconds

Why those cross-cuts? Why ‘interrupt’ Colter’s confession to his father with these images? I have my theory. Would love to hear yours. Head to comments and let’s see what you have to say about this question, and whatever else you may have noticed about this scene.

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

Thanks for the suggestion, Debbie! If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “Heat”

October 1st, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion by ryanleegilmore.

The 1995 movie Heat, written and directed by Michael Mann, is superior entertainment. Here’s an IMDB plot summary:

Hunters and their prey–Neil and his professional criminal crew hunt to score big money targets (banks, vaults, armored cars) and are, in turn, hunted by Lt. Vincent Hanna and his team of cops in the Robbery/Homicide police division. A botched job puts Hanna onto their trail while they regroup and try to put together one last big ‘retirement’ score. Neil and Vincent are similar in many ways, including their troubled personal lives. At a crucial moment in his life, Neil disobeys the dictum taught to him long ago by his criminal mentor–’Never have anything in your life that you can’t walk out on in thirty seconds flat, if you spot the heat coming around the corner’–as he falls in love. Thus the stage is set for the suspenseful ending….

Hanna is played by Al Pacino. Robert DeNiro portrays Neil. In this great scene, the two meet for the one and only time in the movie – and as far as I know, it’s the only time they’ve ever shared the screen at the same time in their entire acting careers.

The dialogue drips with subtext, but what is perhaps most interesting is the journey the scene takes. They start off with a bit of cat-and-mouse, prodding and probing each other. Then they strip away the veneer and take a good honest look at each other – and realize they’re really quite similar in terms of their place in life. Then it feels like they’re truly trying to see if there’s a way out of a confrontation. But it ends up pretty much where it started – they know they’re going to be at each other down the road.

Here’s the scene:

Some background on the scene:

* In an interview with Al Pacino on the DVD Special Edition, Pacino revealed that for the scene in the restaurant between Hanna and McCauley, Robert De Niro felt that the scene should not be rehearsed so that the unfamiliarity between the two characters would seem more genuine. Michael Mann agreed, and shot the scene with no practice rehearsals.

* For the restaurant sequence where McCauley and Hanna finally meet, Michael Mann ran two cameras simultaneously in order to generate a greater level of fluidity between both rivals. Since there were no rehearsals for the scene, this approach afforded both men a more generous margin for improvisational experimentation.

* Although this is the second film on which Al Pacino and Robert De Niro have shared top billing, in The Godfather: Part II (1974), they didn’t have a single scene together. In this movie, they only have two scenes together, for a total of less than 10 minutes.

* Many viewers claim that Robert De Niro and Al Pacino never (or hardly ever) actually share screen time during the film, despite the hype surrounding the films release as showcasing their first screen appearance. In most Pan and Scan versions of the film, and TV broadcasts, it does appear that during the “diner scene” the two never actually share the screen, but viewing the film in correct letterbox format, as the director Michael Mann intended, clearly shows the two actors sitting at the table, though only in wide shots.

* The meeting between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino over coffee was shot at Kate Mantilini on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. The restaurant recently closed.

If you watch the movie version and compare it to the script, you’ll note that there is a middle section, presumably added by Michael Mann. And that dialogue exchange is this:

HANNA: You know I have this recurring dream. I’m sitting at this big banquet table and all the victims of all the murders I ever worked are sitting at this table and they’re staring at me with these black eyeballs because they got 8-ball hemorrhages from the head wounds. And there they are, these big balloon people, because I found them two weeks after they’ve been under the bed. The neighbors reported the smell. And there they are, all of ‘em, just sitting there.
NEIL: Whadda they say?
HANNA: Nothing.
NEIL: No talk?
HANNA: No. Just… they don’t have anything to say. They just look at each other. They look at me. And that’s it, that’s the dream. (snaps fingers)
NEIL: I have one where I’m drowning. And I gotta wake myself up and start breathing or I’ll die in my sleep.
HANNA: You know what that’s about?
NEIL: Yeah. Havin’ enough time.
HANNA: Enough time? To do what you wanna do?
NEIL: That’s right.
HANNA: You doin’ it now?
NEIL: Nah, not yet.

And that segues into “You know we’re sitting here like a coupla of regular fellahs.” It’s interesting to conjecture: Why did Mann add these two ‘confessions,’ both men sharing a secret about their recurring dreams? I’ve got a couple of ideas, but I’m curious to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to weigh in with your comments. Just in general, why do you think this scene works? If anybody cares to do a structural analysis of the scene, breaking it down, that would be groovy.

If you’d like to read the scripted version of the scene, check out my Script To Screen post here.

To read the entire script, go here.

In any event, I think I’m not diving off the deep end to assert that this is a great scene.

Thanks for the suggestion, Ryan! If you have a suggestion for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!