Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Godfather

I wonder why I waited so long to watch it. The Godfather is a movie adapted from the book of the same name by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola – it is the first of a series of three movie, and was released in 1972. It is arguably a movie that everyone has heard about.


The story takes place over many years in the late 1940s, telling the story of Vito “Don” Corleone, his sons Michael (Al Pacino), Santino (James Caan) and Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), his associates, and their interactions with other mafia syndicates. There have been so many reviews about The Godfather I doubt I will say something new about it but here it is.

Not many movies can last 3 hours and keep the interest of the audience. I loved also that there was so many memorable scenes and lines that are part of our general knowledge.


Clemenza: Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.


Michael: My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

Kay Adams: What was that?

Michael: Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.


Don Corleone: You look terrible. I want you to eat, I want you to rest well. And a month from now this Hollywood big shot's gonna give you what you want.

Johnny Fontane: Too late. They start shooting in a week.

Don Corleone: I'm gonna make him an offer he won't refuse.


The opening shot of sets the tone of the film as Don Corleone listens to Bonasera pleading for justice for the brutal beating suffered by his daughter.


Bonasera: I believe in America. America has made my fortune.


Don Corleone: Why did you go to the police? Why didn't you come to me first? What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you'd come to me in friendship, then this scum that ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if, by chance, an honest man like yourself should make enemies . . . then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you.



This movie has an amazing casting: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Diane Keaton. I am ashamed to say I did not recognize Diane Keaton, even though I love her in every single movie I have ever seen, and I was really amused when I realized James Caan is the guy playing Ed in the Las Vegas TV series! All characters fit in perfectly, the tone is correct for every scene and all actors show their talent fully.


We see Michael Corleone, who never wanted to take part in the family business (That's my family Kay, that's not me), lose his innocence and turn into a ruthless successor for his father. His gradual transformation is the heart of the film - from gentle to cold-blooded, he learns from his father never to talk in front of outsiders and always keep his own counsel... His order: "Never take sides against the Family." My view is that he turns ruthless when he loses his wife Apollonia.

Al Pacino does a great job displaying Michael's rise to power.


Marlon Brando’s performance as the godfather alone is stunning, and he is magnetic as Don Corleone – he comes along perfectly as the head of the family, nice to his friends, ruthless to his enemies. I thought he was hot in A Streetcar named Desire - a few years later, he has not aged very well and I would never have recognized him. That said, he is incredibly perfect for the role.


So, we are talking about the mafia here – but the Corleone family is not portrayed as bad people: I found myself cheering for them, no matter what happened. I even found Don Corleone fairly sympathetic. There is violence, yes – the death of Sonny is particularly hard to watch, so is the death of Moe Green, and I am still shaking thinking about the horse’s head. But in the movie, you should note there is no “civilian” victim: everyone who dies deserves to ; we do not see women forced to be prostitutes, we do not see people trapped into gambling, and, in the end, the only police officer we see is corrupt.


One final comment on the scene of the baptism, towards the end: the building of tension, the music behind, the alternation of violence, just perfect


A couple of interesting facts:

  • The  line "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" was voted as the no 10 "100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.

  • Coppola worked with his family in this film : his sister Talia Shire plays Connie, Michael’s sister, his mother Italia is an extra in the restaurant meeting, his father Carmine is the piano player in the Mattress sequence, his sons Gian-Carlo and Roman can be seen in the scene where Sonny beats up Carlo and at the funeral - and his daughter Sofia is the baby in the baptism.

The Godfather has “classic“ written all over, I do not see how you could be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. I really like your thoughts here. And I agree that the power of the Godfather is that you find yourself rooting for the Mafia. It has been one of my favorites for years. I wrote about it recently in honor of the 40th anniversary. Enjoy.