The Godfather (1972) (R)

So here we go, me against the biggest film. Well, it's really not the biggest film ever; but this is the curious movie that will turn everyone into a snob. What's the best movie ever? Well, it's "The Godfather" of course! Why? Well, because Francis Ford Coppola, and the minority, and actors and stuff.
Yeah, I'm not buying it.
I had an immense distaste for "The Godfather" the first time that I saw it and I vowed that I would return to it and give it another shot, just to see if I was wrong. For my money, I wasn't. Francis Ford Coppola crafts an immense piece and it spans many years; but therein lies its biggest problem. For a movie trying desperately to prove to you that at its core it's really all about family, "The Godfather" pledges a loyalty that it cannot keep: to be entertaining for three hours.
The movie begins introducing us to Don Corleone (Marlon Brando), as if you didn't know that. This is a man who values connections above materials. He likes having friends who will do him friendly acts, not people in debt, just friends. Religious, emotional, and tightly-woven together—the Corleone family doesn't let any apples fall far from any tree and they all have each others' backs. It should also be mentioned, that they're the mafia.
Perhaps this is what strikes us so keenly between the eyes and what has hypnotized so many people about "The Godfather" franchise...they are actually humans. Coppola, and deftly he does so, humanizes what should be the villains. And that's where the magic ends. There is no actual connection we have with them, we are not privy to the mental anguish or joys that they receive. They view killing as a job and we are never given insight into what this might to do their psyche. Instead, when moments of domestic abuse climb onto screen, it's somehow chalked up to being "an Italian" thing, which would continue in works of Scorsese. So they seem oblivious to what they're doing, which is not something that Coppola has done before or after. "Apocalypse Now" states that the war-time killing machine turns men literally insane. If this is the parallel, then insanity has a very suited look; and this would make for an intensely watchable movie, but that gets lost in all the mumbling and all the family love.
The Don, Vito, has a family to fend for on his hands and as a few inner city rivalries start rearing their heads, when drugs are introduced to the crime scene, he has to make a few very hard deals to walk away from. But that's not the end, he wants to be God and to have all the knowledge, so he sends out a few goons to watch the streets for him; but there are eyes everywhere and soon bodies start to roll.
Doesn't that sound interesting?
It's actually much more fascinating to play the "orange" game with "The Godfather. That is, whenever you see an orange, something is about to go down. Turns out, this actually falls apart when you look carefully enough because the orange factory was in surplus and the fruits bedazzle each set.
Moving on...
Vito has two sons important to the plot, Michael (Al Pacino) and Sonny (James Caan). Sonny is the more tempered of the two, resorting to violence most of the time, while Michael has been away at war, becoming a hero and staying away from the "family business".
At times it may seem like every person in the history of cinema is looking over your shoulder as you watch "The Godfather" ready to make you an offer you can't refuse if you don't like the movie. View it just as another movie and if you love it, good for you; but it will always be a snoozefest to me.
To be honest, it's a well-done movie, it's beautiful to look at, and it will always have a firm place in cinematic history.
For me, "The Godfather" will always remain a slightly campy look at a family's life that never interests me because I can't engage with any of them. Like "Citizen Kane" we are left out in the cold and this doesn't sit well with me.
Still, with many famous lines and a history of lauds to prove its worth, it really doesn't suffer from my criticism. Just think about how close it came to getting dethroned by "Cabaret" at the Oscars...maybe then its years of celebration will dull a little.

Score: ★★½

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