Highlighting A Classic: “The Godfather”


HOLLYWOOD—Some might find this hard to believe, but I’ve NEVER seen any of “The Godfather” films. Yes, it’s a travesty considering I’m an aspiring filmmaker, film studies graduate and avid cinema buff. Some ask me all the time why not?

Well, I’ve never been a fan of the gangster genre, and three plus hours for a movie is a long time in my book. If it’s that long it better be darn good. Well, rest assured movie lovers, I finally got the opportunity to sit down and watch “The Godfather” in all of its epic glory.

I guess I see what all the fuss is about. While violence is indeed a major proponent of the movie, at its core it’s about family. I must admit this is also a film that shines a bright spot on the inner workings of the mafia and how those dynamics can change at the toss of a coin. The movie revolves around the Corleone family, headed by the brilliant Marlon Brando. Brando not only infuses a level of fear in a character that comes across as a big teddy bear, but he keeps his family at his side by ALL times.

The movie opens with a huge celebratory wedding for his daughter Connie portrayed by Talia Shire. Many might be surprised to realize that Shire didn’t get her first starring role in “Rocky,” but in “The Godfather.” The family is celebrating all the festivities, but behind the scenes, Vito (Brando) is still handling business. He is still thinking about family, particularly his youngest son Michael (Al Pacino).

Michael has recently returned from fighting in World War II. He is college educated and has no interest in joining the family business. It’s almost a shining spot in the movie in my opinion, because he’s the black sheep; but the black sheep tends to be the most dangerous at times. Like any family dynamic, when you have siblings, its changes everything. Michael might be calm and cool in the beginning, but those characteristics shift after his father is nearly killed by rival crime lords.

James Caan was an absolute revelation in the movie. I kept asking myself, how in the world did he not win the Oscar for his volatile performance as Sonny Corleone. He is beyond a hot-head in my opinion, he wants to follow in his father’s shoes and will do almost anything to maintain that level of fear his father breathed into his enemies.

We also have Fredo Corleone portrayed by John Cazale. He is the most timid and odd of the three brothers, it’s perceived early in the film that Fredo’s chances of leading the crime business after his father’s attack will never happen and he’s sent away for protection, when it becomes evident when members of the Corleone family are targeted.

I think an interesting tidbit about “The Godfather” is that the violence is never hidden; it’s brutal and in your face. Rather it’s the head of a bloody horse in the bed, a brother being violently shot hundreds of times, someone being strangled to death or domestic violence, it’s raw. This movie does not hold back on what is presented to the audience. I can’t stop thinking of that scene where Al Pacino’s character fatally shoots a corrupt cop and a rival crime lord. He doesn’t think twice about what he is doing, in his eyes he’s avenging his father, and bringing justice to those who may have been bullied by a government official.

I was never a fan of the movie because I’m not a fan of advocating the gangster genre as I don’t think its good for American culture, but I have a deeper appreciation for the movie, as it shines a light on family. The ups and downs that one endures, rather it’s through a celebratory event, a marriage, a death or homecoming. The direction by Francis Ford Coppola brings a sense of warmth to the movie; it was almost a perfect movie in my opinion, and that is something that I rarely say about any film. Perfection is difficult to achieve, but with writing, directing and acting of this caliber it hits all of the high points.

Now that I have “The Godfather” checked off of my bucket list, I know have to turn my attention to “The Godfather: Part II” and “The Godfather: Part III.” There is just one slight problem; I’m going to need about 7-8 hours to watch both films. Only time will tell.