Monday, January 26, 2015

550. THE GODFATHER (1972)

Running Time: 175 minutes
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo, from novel by Mario Puzo
Main Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton
Click here to view the trailer


It was a long journey getting to watch this. First of all, the original disc arrived from Netflix cracked, meaning I had to send it back and get a replacement. And then the replacement took something like three days to get here, as Netflix informs me that as of January 1, 2015, delivery times of DVDs could slow down substantially due to something with the post office. It's not like I can show my dissatisfaction my unsubscribing from my DVD plan, as there's nowhere else to get some of these movies. So I've upped my plan to '5 DVDs out at a time' and am hoping the issue is resolved ASAP. Now then...the greatest movie of all-time awaits. Read on...

Don Vito Corleone (Brando) is the head of the infamous Corleone crime family and it just happens to be the day of his daughter's wedding. On this day, the Don can't refuse any favor that is asked of him, but remember - if the Don does a favor for you, you may be asked to someday pay him back. Vito has four sons: the hot head Sonny (Caan), the adopted son and Vito's consigliere Tom Hagen (Duvall), the simple minded Fredo (John Cazale) and Michael (Pacino) a war hero who isn't involved in the family business. When Vito is gunned down in the street by a rival crime boss, an all out Mafia war is sparked and Michael reads all about in the papers, returning home to sit by his father's side, in his hour of need. While recuperating, Sonny and Tom take the reigns of the family business, declaring vengeance for the attempted murder on their father's life. However, it is Michael who offers to carry out the physical act, agreeing to meet narcotics dealer and an associate of a rival boss, Virgil Sollozzo. Accompanying Sollozzo is paid off police captain McCluskey (Sterling Hayden). At the meeting, the plan is for Michael to meet with the two, be frisked and then sneak off to the bathroom where a gun will be planted, which Michael will use to murder the two and send the message that the Corleone's are still a force to be reckoned with. The plan goes off without a hitch and Michael is sent away to Italy, to hide out while things blow over and Sonny manages the family business. While in Italy, Michael marries, forgetting the fiance he once courted in America.


I'm feeling a little under the weather tonight, with a wicked earache and an uneasy stomach after a dinner that didn't agree with me, so bear with me if I don't do this movie justice with a shoddy review - but I'll try my best here.

To me, a lot of my feelings toward this film really hinge on two crucial moments, which one could over analyze to death and probably squeeze a A+ worthy thesis out of for their college film class. Consider the character of Michael, whom we first meet at the wedding of his sister, where he brings a woman he's been seeing as his date. The woman is curious, she asks questions - she doesn't realize that Michael's family's business is the business of crime. In a moment, Michael takes a deep breath when his date, Kay asks about why Johnny Fontaine owes Vito a favor and tells Kay the story of the time Vito and his muscle Luca Brasi put a gun to the head of a band leader who was holding Fontaine to a signed contract and "made him an offer he couldn't refuse". Pacino delivers this line with all the shame he can muster and thus begins the slow, but probably unavoidable transformation of Michael Corleone, from clean cut, good guy war hero to evil Mafia patriarch, which he will someday become. Actually, no, the transformation doesn't begin there. I think, the transformation begins when Michael reads about the near fatal shooting of his father in a newspaper, where just moments before he walked down a busy city street with Kay on his arm. In this moment, maybe Michael realizes he's out of the loop and he's jealous. Why can't he be the Sonny or the Tom, at his father's side (whom he respects and loves), but also fully knows that to be in that position, that his entire demeanor would have to change completely. Michael sits in his father's office, his father seemingly lying on his death bed in a downtown hospital and he drums his fingers together and a cancer begins to grow in his belly, in his brain, in his chest. He stares a hole through the wall and the cancer, which is called vengeance, grows. He offers to his brothers his amateur services - that he will wield a gun and shoot, between the eyes, two of the men behind the attempted murder of his father. They laugh at him, he insists - the cancer grows.

Then there's the Vito character and his love for his son Michael, a son that he never wanted to see get into the family business - the business of being a criminal. Watch Vito when they tell him that Michael has been sent away into hiding, as he was the one who shot Sollozzo and McClusky. He gives a swift nod of disapproval and waves his hand for Sonny to leave his room, in tears. His heart physically breaks on camera and as the cancer, the cancer named vengeance, grows inside of Michael's belly, Vito slowly dies. He doesn't die physically (at first), he dies emotionally, he dies spiritually - he loses his grit. Perhaps it's the evil spirit of Vito that slowly creeps into Michael, feeding his evil tendencies, creating a monster. At least Vito has a happy ending, as he dies quietly, in the garden, doing what he's only ever really wanted to do, loving and enjoying his family, be it only one member (Michael's son, Anthony). Perhaps moments before his death, he recollected chasing Michael the same way he's chasing Anthony, remembering the innocent Michael, the pure Michael, the Michael that he'd never allow to become a career criminal. He sees Michael in Anthony and his heart weeps so loudly and so uncontrollably, that he keels over dead from the pain.

This to me is the greatness of the movie. The weeping heart of a father that one day weeped to hard, the cancerous growth that develops inside a once good hearted son and both of these - the weeping heart and the cancerous growth - cause by the other: Vito weeps because Michael is being corrupted, Michael grows cold because his father was nearly killed. Or perhaps I'm way off base and I've missed the point entirely...but these are the most interesting parts of The Godfather for me, the human aspects. Not necessarily the shoot 'em up, bang bang stuff - albeit that stuff was great too. Who will ever forget Sonny writhing, being held up only by the incoming, machine gun fire, pieces of his flesh exploding all over him, blood pouring out. The suspense when Michael reaches for a gun behind the a public toilet, a split second when we think it may not be there and think Michael doomed. That moment when we realize that the car Apollonia is preparing to drive will explode when she starts it, a quick scream from Michael which is then drowned out by a big bang, sizzling fire, metal incinerating around the already charred corpse of his bride - the business strikes again, the cancer spreads. All great moments and all things that support anyone's claim that this is the greatest movie ever made. I, for one, don't particularly share that opinion, but certainly wouldn't talk anyone out of having it and can see why many do. I found the film to be a breath of fresh air, a classic worthy of your time and certainly a must see, even one I'd consider a personal favorite, but going so far as to call it the greatest is something I just can't do. I'll end there...

RATING: 8.5/10  I really can't wait to see Part II, with the introduction of De Niro to the cast and the back story of Vito. Also, probably the most popular, lauded film I've never ever seen, not once.


January 26, 2015  11:27pm


  1. Another of those films - like 'Apocalypse now' - that is sort of 'too big' to say much about.
    So glad you 'pretty much' liked it.
    Considering how much violence there is in this film, (which I often react against).. I have to say I think this is one of the greats.. and I'd go to a minimum of 9.5... Maybe 10.. but perhaps I'm saving that for pt II

    1. I think I'm just getting too picky for my own good. I couldn't, in good conscience, give this a '10', but I still really liked it a lot. So you prefer Part II then? We may be facing our first disagreement of the season....


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