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The Godfather



1972

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, Robert Duval, Diane Keaton

" I made him an offer he couldn't refuse."

"Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."

"This one time I'll let you ask me about my affairs."

"All those politicians you carry in your pocket like so many nickels and dimes."

This is only my third complete, start to finish, viewing of The Godfather. This is one of those films that you feel like you have seen a hundred times even when you have not. It is such a part of the consciousness of our culture I felt like I saw it even before I did. Needless to say I responded to it immediately and have considered it one of my favorites since my first viewing about fifteen years ago. Everything about The Godfather is cinematic. The opening wedding scene, Michael in Italy, and the Corleone's home, everything is big and beautiful and shot perfectly. Considering it is a gangster film I also appreciate how quiet this film is. Where something like Goodfellas is all energy and brashness, The Godfather is contemplative. It allows its story and characters to breathe. For me that makes the film refreshing and gives it an organic feeling.

The story arc is simple and familiar. Most of us probably knew of Michael's journey before even viewing the film. No matter, what makes this film immersive and gives it its weight is the characters. Each one is drawn and acted brilliantly. It seems as though Puzo and Coppola care as much for their secondary characters as they do the main players. None feel as though they are expendable. Each and every one feels as though they are an important part of this world and because of this what happens to them is important to the viewer. Very few films have had so many moving parts and handled them so deftly.

The Godfather introduced, or in some cases reintroduced, me to so many actors. Duval, Pacino, and Keaton are all actors that I had seen before this and enjoyed but their performances are so unique here that they are almost unrecognizable as the actors I had watched before. Brando is perfect of course. His final scene with Michael is brilliant and mesmerizing. The way he drifts from talking about family to business and back again as a man at the end of life hanging on to what is important while still struggling with the things that he let consume his existence. I love this scene and have loved Brando from the first time I saw it. Caan is great as Sonny as well. I struggle to think of another Caan performance that I really like but always talk about him as a great actor and I think it is due solely to how much I love his portrayal as Sonny.

My favorite scene in The Godfather is Connie's wedding. It is long and beautiful and provides us so much of the exposition that propels not only this film but the next two as well. It sets up Vito as a man of character, even if his character does not jive with our moral compass. It sets up Sonny as the arrogant hot head. It sets up Tom as the brains and even hand. It shows us that Fredo is a character who is dismissed easily because of his lack of brains and gumption. Most of all it gives us insight into Michael and Kate's relationship and starts us on their important journey. Michael being honest about his family's business while at the same time explaining to Kate that he has chosen a different path is one of the great moments in this film. It is even more poignant I think when you are already aware of what path he is headed down. Once again the secondary characters do so much to set the tone of the scene. The funeral director with the plea for his daughter. The boss who has a reporter frisked and his film destroyed. The tongue tied made guy nervous to see the Godfather. Perfect scene and a perfect beginning to a perfect film.

In case I have been mincing words I will end by saying I love everything about this film. I don't think there has been a movie more made for the cinematic experience. If The Godfather is ever anything more than a perfect film to me something about the way I view film will have to change drastically.