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Classic Films: The Godfather

So, we come to the ultimate in supposed ‘must see’ movies. Everyone who hasn’t got this particular monkey off their back is guaranteed to have endured someone who layers every word in the following sentence with incredulity: “You haven’t seen The Godfather?”

Now, its been well over a month since my last review, and I did say that I was going to reel these movies off rather quickly. However, The Godfather seems to have been an exception. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, the film is 3 hours long, and it was hard to find the time for it in my busy schedule.

You know, what with all the... stuff.

Secondly, its The freaking Godfather. It ranks second in IMDB’s Top 250 of all time, just ahead of itself Part 2. Its not the film you put on during a lazy weekday between Jeremy Kyle and Pointless, surely? It’s supposed to be an experience to savour at the exact right time. You disable the front doorbell, draw your curtains, and ready yourself to see what all the fuss is about.

And thirdly, once I had gone through all that trouble, I proudly told my dad that I had ticked off another film from his extensive collection, which resembles a cinema purists branch of Blockbusters. He smiled back and said. “Excellent”, before pausing, and delivering a knock-out blow. “Now you’ve got Part I out of the way, you’re in for a real treat.” So, rather deflatedly, I decided to view the first two instalments of The Godfather series before submitting this review.

Sorry, I couldn't be arsed to set aside another 2 and a half hours for what is considered to be cinemas biggest disappointment.

So, I bet you guys want a sort of plot summation, as is the style in film reviews? Right. Marlon Brando plays Vito “Godfather” Corleone, don of an organised crime family. His sons include hot headed Sonny (James Caan), clever adoptee Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) and law abiding war hero Michael (Al Pacino). All good so far, you are thinking, so whats it about? What actually happens?

Well, you see, its all very slow burning. The first hour and a half is fairly diplomatic. The Corleones are roughly introduced via a family wedding, Vito shows his rationale dealing with a narcotics investment, and Sonny shows his volatile nature dealing with an abusive brother-in-law. There’s talking and business strategy, punctuated with the occasional whacking and mob war.

From what I have heard, people do complain that the film gets off to a slow start, and only picks up in terms of action towards the end. To those people, I say this: that is how it is supposed to be. What director Francis Ford Coppola does so well is to mirror the emotions in the pace of the movie. While Vito is in charge, the tempo is as calm and measured as he is. But whenever he is out of the picture, the mood and momentum become more impetuous, less considered and what the layperson describes as ‘exciting’.

"Guns! Blood! I hope Diane Keaton goes topless soon too!"

Dare we move onto the sequel? This would be the more critically acclaimed, having scooped more Oscars than its predecessor. It is a movie broken into two storylines. One is a flashback for the genesis of a young Vito Andolini (Robert De Niro) from Corleone, Sicily to 1920’s New York. The second plot follows the current day efforts of his son to expand the business and crush any opposition in his way.

And… that is all I am going to say about the sequel, because there is not much you need to know having not seen the first instalment yet. What I can say, in some attempt to wade in on this battle between the two movies, is that there should be no competition between them. From what I can see, Part II serves as both a sequel and an prequel (obvious statment), but is simply a continuation or a companion movie (contentious statement). It is better to view them as two halves of one great movie (see how I now discount Part III completely?). Therefore, to keep my word count both respectable and at a readable length, I shall review them as one.

The cast is about as good as you’ll get in a movie, as evidenced by the 2 wins and 7 nominations spread over both Academy Awards ceremonies. The pair of wins came for portrayals of the character Vito Corleone, by both Brando and De Niro. Pacino was nominated Best Supporting Actor for both films, while Duvall and Diane Keaton took notable praise for their roles.

The cinematography by Coppola is excellent (and as I said before, beautifully paced), the soundtrack by Nino Rota is thoroughly understated but menacing, and yet the most credit throughout the production goes to writer Mario Puzo. It is after all, ‘Mario Puzo’s The Godfather’, and allowing him to maintain control in adapting the screenplay was a big factor in the main selling point of these films. The dialogue from this film is widely regarded to be part of the teaching that allows man to train for one of the most mature roles of his life.

"You don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me "Godfather."

Alright, so lets come to a definitive outcome outcome on this. Because there may be some people out there who haven’t seen it yet, and wan’t to know if its worth their time. And to those people I say…

What? You haven’t seen The Godfather?

WHATSAMATTAWITYOU?