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First and foremost, my deepest apologies to people for my lack of posts about classics such as The Godfather, I’ve been a bad movie blogger on that front for years now but a big change is gonna come. And what better way to start off than to view The Godfather for the first time ever (I know, shame on me!), movie that I’ve heard so much about over the years, and possibly a great beginning to the series of posts of classics I’ve missed.
The Godfather won three Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Picture and Best Screenplay based on another medium. The Godfather is listed in IMDb’s Top 250 movies as #2.
It is quite the challenge to watch a movie that is well loved by so many, one is simply mentally forced in this corner of limited feelings that can rise from the movie. In so many ways I felt like I was supposed to love the movie and that is never a good thing when you are trying to be objective – when everybody loves the movie, how can you not? I knew it was going to be a difficult task from the start, watching The Godfather while not being influenced by the fact that it is considered the best of the best, but the kind of task I had to tackle with no hesitation. Being completely honest, this experience lingered on my laziness for quite some time and I watched The Godfather I in two parts, where the last 2 hours of the movie were separated from the first hour for weeks.
The first half of the movie wasn’t as appealing to me, that is probably why I didn’t want to finish watching it for a long time – it felt a bit too slow for my taste but I don’t hold it against the movie. It was that time where it was more about the story telling rather than offering entertainment, so I can’t critique it but I can say, that it isn’t my favorite cup of tea. Second half of the movie turned out to be much better and very intriguing with many things happening around the Corleone’s family. Especially with Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), who in the beginning is introduced as the son who doesn’t want to be apart of his family business but later has a change of heart in the matter. Though the first movie focuses a lot on Pacino’s character, the actual leading role is still Marlon Brando.
Marlon Brando had the tendency to improvise his lines which might be also the reason why it is said that he was a difficult man to work with. Still, he had 43 movie roles of which two brought him an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
What seems to be the reason behind The Godfather’s permanent place as a great classic is the performance Marlon Brando gives as Don Vito Corleone. The character is threatening and full of authority, together with that husky, powerful yet weak-sounding voice of his, Brando’s performance had its best moments mostly in the beginning of the movie, before the assassination attempt on his character. That was the moment when the movie turned around and became all about Michael – his development towards his new role (from a collage man to a criminal). After his father’s death, following the very violent events concerning all the mafia families, we see a very clear change in him. It is especially clear in Michael’s final moments on screen when the truth is revealed also to his wife Kay (Diane Keaton), when he is called Don Corleone. In that final scene, he has become the man his father probably had expected him to be – the godfather.
Although the movie takes a long time to evolve and has moments of feeling a bit over the top (when Sonnie is killed he literally absorbs bullets yet he is able to stand up), the over all plot becomes very good in the third half of the movie. The mood that was set in the beginning, the fear of Don Corleone has shifted and even escalated because not only is Michael feared by outsiders but he is in so many ways frightening and hurting the people in his own family. A lot of that credit, the way the story evolved and got more intense has to do with the writing. Mario Puzo who got an Academy Award for his adaption from his own novel certainly knew how to give the story this calm tone which begun to build up and get more hectic in the end. And if one gives a shout out to the screenplay, the director can’t be overlooked – Francis Ford Coppola is a name that everybody knows even though he hasn’t been as influential as he was in the 70’s. I think the success behind The Godfather is strongly connected to these two men as a team, Puzo and Coppola seem to work and carry a certain quality.
The tone of the entire movie is set quite dark and the collision between the tones which may be also described as colorless and the blood is certainly interesting as well. There were of course moments where the tone was a bit more uplifting, as it was in the beginning but as the movie progressed, the tones got more and more depressing (as far as I can remember). Although it is a movie among the color era, the whole vibe still seemed so far from color most of the times with the only expeditions being the scenes with blood. Not to mention the red rose in Don Corleone’s front pocket in the beginning – already setting the tone between the dark and the blood.
My favorite scene of the movie is actually the final scene, the one I already mentioned , I know it might sound a bit easy, as it was the last thing I saw but it truly was amazing. Kay in the front but Michael as the focus point in the background, looking a bit scary and definitely powerful. It shows so much and tells a lot about their relationship, him being distant and hiding the truth from her until she realizes it herself – seeing her face as the door closes just brakes your heart. And as much as I want to talk about everything else that happened in that movie, the main focus still seems to be on Michael Corleone and his passage to his father’s profession and Al Pacino in general. The man was great then and he is great now.
To finish this post up, I must say that as proud as I am for finally getting to that final scene of The Godfather part 1, I’m gonna continue on with other classics and watch the second part in the near future. So next up on the series of BOT, Blade Runner.