by Ryan Arthur
Absolutely, positively, *REQUIRED* viewing. Easily one of the best movies ever made and quite possibly the best of all time.I recently revisited The Godfather film on, of all things, Laserdisc. I'd seen countless bits and pieces here and there over the years, but I hadn't actually seen the film in full (or in unedited form) since I was around 12, when I actually sat down with my father to watch it. It was then that I was first introduced to the Corleone family, and where my interest in film started to be more than just passing fancy.
"Let me tell you something, my Kraut Mick friend!"
The plot is pretty straightforward: based on the Mario Puzo novel of the same name, The Godather tells the story of a mafia family, the Corleone's, from the inside. We meet them all, from the patriarch of the family, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando, in what's probably his most famous - and most imitated - performance), his sons Michael (Al Pacino, pre- "hoo-ah" and screaming instead of acting), Sonny (James Caan) and Fredo (John Cazale). We see them not just as a family, but as a family that just happens to be involved in organized crime. The characters that come to inhabit their world are every bit as important, like Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall, in one of his greatish performances), and Kay Adams (Diane Keaton), the WASP who is supposed to marry Michael. Then there's Luca Brasi, Tessio (Abe F'in Vigoda!), the movie producer, Jack Woltz... It's all woven together in an epic tale that, surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) still holds up today.
In reality, the story's structure is a classic: the passing of power from generation to generation. The Godfather in the title will not come to refer to Vito Corleone, as it does at the film's start, but rather to his predecessor, Michael, who at first isn't even part of "the family business."
Throughout the film, there's questions and tests of loyalty, and it's here that we start to see the makings of the character of Michael, as he throws himself into the family business after his father is gunned down. Michael chooses the mafia life, shooting a corrupt cop, escaping to Sicily, and returning to stake his claim to the family business, reuniting with Kay, and generally running his enemies into the ground. The "baptism massacre" which cements Michael's role as the head of the family is a great bit of filmmaking, and a turning point in the story.
The Godfather features the best performances of all involved. Brando's Vito is more than just a role, it's the actual embodiment of the character. Say what you will about the man now, but that was the role of his life. Pacino's Michael is, along with his role as Vincent Hanna in Heat, is probably my favorite Pacino performance. He doesn't have the bluster and over-the-top mentality of his later roles. He doesn't chew the scenery. Michael, even in transformation to the head of the family, is so quiet, so reserved, that it's hard to even picture Pacino as he is now. Caan plays his part to the perfection, and every time I see Bobby (I can call him that, 'cause we're tight) Duvall, I immediately think back to his performance here. Throw in the masterful direction from Coppola and the spot-on perfect cinematography from Gordon Willis and it's a complete package. It's all *just that good.*There's nothing bad to say about this movie. Not one damn thing. It's a classic, and if you haven't seen it yet, then get off your ass and get to it. Fix up some pasta, plop down in front of the telly and get into it. You'll thank me later.
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originally posted: 01/02/00 07:25:14