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The Godfather

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I believe it would be wrong to review 'The Godfather' merely as a film. From its initial cinema release in 1972, 'The Godfather' has now evolved to become part of our culture. It is quintessentially a masculine fairy tale illustrated in a grandiose style. Like a bottle of vintage Chateau Margaux, this film, now approaching its third decade, is more brilliant each time it is appreciated. I must have watched this film more than twenty times and every time, yet I still find myself savouring each precious moment like a devout Christian in a Sunday bible class. The film is the very essence of machoism, with a sparkling script to inspire many generations of men, regardless of their cultural heritage. Much of the dialogue have been frequently quoted, ranging from American corporate offices to English pubs and even to some of the most unlikely places in the world, such as, Saddam Hussein's living room. With lines such as:

"Never tell anybody outside the family what you are thinking again."
"A man who doesn't spend time with his family, can never be a real man."
"It's business, not personal."
"I'll make him a offer he can't refuse."

It is of little wonder why these words have been tattooed onto our minds. Screen legend Marlon Brando ('A Streetcar Named Desireˇ¦, 'On the Waterfront') leads this stellar cast in the title role and he is at his mercurial finest as the Godfather, Don Vito Corleone. A seasoned leader amongst men, Don Corleone is majestically poised and able to impose absolute authority with a single gaze. Family unity is the Godfather's golden rule and in a setup is similar to Shakespeare's 'King Lear', the film follows his relationship with his three potential heirs: his sons, Sonny played by James Caan ('Mickey Blue Eyes', 'Misery'); Fredo played by the late John Cazale ('Dog Day Afternoon', 'Deer Hunter') and of course, Michael played by Al Pacino ('Any Given Sunday', 'Scent of a Woman'). As we are constantly reminded of Corleoneˇ¦s family values, the level of intimacy between the family and the audience grows with each passing minute of the film and the story actually focuses on the demise of power from Don Vito to his youngest son, Michael.

Aside from the Sicilian family members, there are additional characters playing important roles to the family. Tom Hagen, played by Robert Duvall ('The Apostle', 'Apocalypse Now') is a GermanˇVIrish orphan, brought up by the Godfather to become a lawyer and his trusted advisor. There is also Diane Keaton ('Father of the Bride', 'Annie Hall'), who plays Kay Adams, Michael Corleone's love interest before he joins the family business. Kay is naive and gullible, representing the purist and whitest of white America, and whose character only serves as a constant token reminder of the legitimate life Michael could have had.

There are certain story components of 'The Godfather', which seem to have derived from biblical tales. The character of Don Vito Corleone bears a subtle similarity to King David of the Old Testament. As further illustrated in 'The Godfather Part 2', the Godfather is a man forced by society and tragedy to lead men in the path of righteousness. Rising from humble beginnings to a position of absolute power and respect but yet, moral discipline remains the nucleus of the character. Whilst Michael Corleone emulates his father's aura, he projects a much darker presence as the Don, with a colder and more calculating poise.


The transformation of Michael Corleone from the patriotic all-American war hero to the omnipotent Mafia warlord is what makes the film such a dramatic fantasy. Following a life no less colourful than Luke Skywalker of 'Star Wars', Michael Corleone's life shaping experiences are extraordinary. He was a confused young man who risked his life in a vendetta, only to become an exile, who learns of his cultural heritage and discover his own destiny. After a number of personal tragedies, Michael refocuses his life and evolves into a Machiavellian tyrant, but he never loses the sympathy of the audience because the crimes he committed was justified and done in the idealistic pursuit of duty and responsibility.

The world of the Mafia has always been shrouded in secrecy and 'The Godfather' is far from any documented truth of this century old institution of organised crime. Within insular 'The Godfather' patriarchal haven, the audience is able to romanticise the ideals in an otherwise cruel and violent life. The Corleones are portrayed as proud and righteous citizens who only became the criminal elite because of the discriminating and hypocritical society they live in. Via acts of revenge and self-preservation and that no evil villain dies without having deserved so, the many murders of sub-characters all become morally acceptable.

In my opinion, 'The Godfather' is possibly the finest film directed by Francis Ford Coppola ('Apocalypse Now') and initiated a new direction in the timeless genre of gangster films. Its originality lies in the fact that it is very much a Mafia fairy tale and it has inspired many worthy crime films since. The director of photography, Gordon Willis daringly broke filmaking conventions of the day by underexposing much of the film, thereby creating a shadowy look, which atmospherically illustrated the Mafia underworld. This critically acclaimed result earned Willis, the reputation of the 'prince of darkness' amongst cinematographers. However, the film's popularity has one cultural casualty: the befittingly haunting score composed by the late Nino Rota has now been tragically overused to promote tourists to visit Sicilian holiday camps.

This groundbreaking film is truly an undisputed gem of twentieth century cinema and it is in every way well worth taking an additional look any day of the week and as Michael's first wife, Apollonia would put it, any "Maunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday, ...Friday, Sunday, Saturday".




MovieForums Extra
That's a great review always!! As always, the Godfather remains my number 1 all time favourite movie, and I'm convinced it's the best movie ever made!! It's a timeless tale, and I'm sure every generation will be able to relate to it and rediscover its' value...
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Black Holes Suck!



Your review is beautifully written, though I don't feel as passionate about the film as you do. I saw the film for the first time about five years ago and maybe the film just didn't live up to the hype it has achieved since 1972. The film definitely has its strong points, top of that list for me would be Al Pacino's Michael Corleone. Pacino was clearly robbed of an Outstanding Lead Actor Oscar, even though he was nominated as supporting, Michael is the lead in that film and Brando was nominated as lead because, well, because he's Brando. Duvall was outstanding as Tom, but the film's pacing is a little too leisurely to sustain interest in a film of such length. I don't know, I may have felt differently if I had seen the film during its original release. Maybe my expectations were too high and couldn't have possibly been met. On the other hand, there has to be some reason that THE GODFATHER won three Oscars in 1973 and CABARET won eight.