Oh Godfather, It's been too long.
Genre: Gangster Crime Drama
Starring: Marlon Brando (Apocalypse Now • A Streetcar Named Desire), Al Pacino (Serpico • Scarface)
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation • Bram Stoker's Dracula)
Overview: During the 40s, Mob Godfather Don Vito Corleone protects and fights for the future of his crime family.
It's been a good decade since I've seen The Godfather and long before the days of 'Squish the Serious Silver Screen Studier'. Films like this, like Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now and Star Wars, films this epic, intimidate me a little as a critic. That's because everyone's seen them, meaning that people probably aren't stumbling across the blogosphere to Filmsquish to learn more about it in hopes that it may influence their decision on whether on not to see one of the world's best known films. Also, everything's probably already been said on the topic by more learn'd folk than I. That means that you, dear reader, are here to judge. It's fine. I do the same. You shan't hear me rant at how boring, long or outmoded this film is, certainly not. Luckily I love The Godfather like you do, oranges, Appolonia, Sonny at the causeway and all.
Let me be a good little critic first and tell you what you already know. It's the 40s and Don Vito Corleone, patriarch of a mob family, is the type of boss who does favours for people in his community. The world isn't perfect. The Corleone family has its share of trials and tribulations, including other crime boss families, the changing tides of the Mafia lifestyle and the question of drug-dealing as a mob enterprise. Vito's youngest and most promising son Michael is not interested in the life that is offered to him and wants something different for his future. The Godfather is the story of Vito Corleone and his family as they face the life they've chosen.
The Godfather is a rich tapestry of the dark forces and machinations of a prominent Mafia family in the 40s. The long, first chapter introduction is, in my humble opinion, one of the best introductions to a cast of characters as ever I've seen in film history to date. In Vito's first monologue he says to a man who has asked for the greatest of favours:
Corleone: We've known each other many years, but this is the first time you came to me for counsel, for help. I can't remember the last time that you invited me to your house for a cup of coffee, even though my wife is godmother to your only child. But let's be frank here: you never wanted my friendship. And you were afraid to be in my debt. You found paradise in America, had a good trade, made a good living. The police protected you; and there were courts of law. And you didn't need a friend of me. But now you come to me and you say -- "Don Corleone give me justice." - But you don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me Godfather. Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you ask me to do murder, for money.
Said so simply, the subtext of everything Vito Corleone represents comes alive in this short monologue: intention, expectation, the power that he wields. Coppola's script of Mario Puzo's novel is full of these moments. The film's strength is the conniving interplay that Vito and his family engages in, ever full of dramatic suspense. Vito's haunting words, "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse", is one unforgettable repeated line in The Godfather that glues us to the screen until whatever convincing plan he's devised comes to fruition. Add to the brilliantly written script the beautiful simplicity of the brown palate in the visual style of the cinematography, consistently full of deep cherry offices and pitch black overcoats. Director of Photography Gordon Willis' career includes all three films of The Godfather trilogy as well as Annie Hall and All the President's Men. I was quite pleased to see that though the sequel takes place decades later, the colour palate remained the same in The Godfather II as well.
The hot temper of middle son Sonny and sister Connie, the cool reluctance of Michael, the calculating silent eyes of Vito, the intimidating glare of Luca Brasi, played by Lenny Montana, and an exceptional cameo in the small role of Capt. McCluskey played by Noir tour-de-force Sterling Hayden all come together to bring this tale alive. Brilliantly acted, beautifully shot and perfectly written, it's no doubt this film is one of world's most famous, and a film that skyrocketted Al Pacino's career into superstardom.
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 10 Plot: 8 Mood: 9
Overall Rating: 90% (Give it The Respect it Deserves)
I remember the early days of IMDb when The Top 250's number 1 rated best film was The Godfather. I recall the day when I saw The Shawshank Redemption replace it at the top of that list. I had a feeling that it would be bumped back down eventually by diehard Godfather fans and I stand ever still corrected. Still, #2 really isn't anything to scoff at, especially since its sequel is right behind it.