The Godfather (1972) – Francis Ford Coppola

A cinematic classic. A masterpiece. A gold standard in film.

All of these descriptions suit Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s epic novel, The Godfather, perfectly, and it is my next stop in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book as I return to the Thriller genre.

Having said all of the above it no doubt makes me sound like I’m a big fan of the film. I’m not. Try not to be too aghast. I can appreciate it as cinema, and art, but I have never cared for stories about crime families. They do nothing for me. Yes, The Sopranos is a superior television series, but it’s hard for me to feel empathy for Tony.

It’s the same thing here. I love the cast, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and Marlon Brando, but I can’t always relate to the characters, even Pacino’s Michael Corleone. Sure, his and Keaton’s character, Kay, are the audience’s way into the film as Michael gives Kay the background and ins and outs of the Corleone family, and their sordid history.

Endlessly quotable, an iconic score, and fantastic performances (and a hoopla over Oscar nominations – Brando somehow was nominated for and won Best Actor, while Pacino whose role is much larger in the film was only nominated for Best Supporting Actor – which he didn’t win) The Godfather is edgy, smart film-making and a fantastic example of 70s cinema.

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Coppola’s film is titanic and epic in nature, and runtime (3 hours) and is simply gorgeous to watch. There are themes running through all of if it, and visual cues (the orange signifying death every time it appears) that perfectly underscore the film. Coppola’s attention to detail, and his work with the entire cast is top notch.

This film, and its sequels, well at least Part II, are essential parts of any film lover’s repertoire and education, and I always delight in expanding my cinematic knowledge and understanding of the craft that I love so very much. So I was more than happy to sit down and watch this film, despite not loving the story.

It remains a stunning watch, the moments of brutal violence, the imagery, the composition of shots, the beats, and honestly, just the rough-edged 1970s feel of the film, all of them have an enduring impact on the viewer and cinema.

The Godfather is always worth the watch, and I always see something in it that I haven’t seen before (though, to be honest, I’ve only seen the whole movie through maybe three times), and that is a manner of film-making that I always enjoy.

It’s a classic, and there’s a reason.

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