The Godfather (1972)
**** (out of 4)
Francis Ford Coppola's epic masterpiece adapted from Mario Puzo's novel about crime lord Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) and his attempt to keep his family from going in the wrong direction. Everything imaginable has already been said about this movie so there's not too many reasons to go back through it. Having recently watched the movie theatrical as part of Paramount's re-release, I must say that knowing the film and story so closely allowed me to just sit back and enjoy what Coppola put on the screen. What really struck me is how there are so many reasons why this film shouldn't have worked yet everything came together so perfectly. People know about the studio not wanting Brando and Al Pacino but can you imagine what would have happened had neither one been here? I've never felt this was anywhere near Brando's greatest performance and in fact I might not even place it in the top ten. That's not saying anything against his work here but it speaks for how great he was. I think the most impressive thing was seeing how well he could play someone elderly. Just think that he followed this up with LAST TANGO IN Paris and it just shows what all he could do. With Pacino it has been said that the studio didn't like the rushes they were seeing involving some of his early stuff like at the wedding. Watching these scenes it's easy to see why they'd be nervous but just check out the sequence when his character takes on the responsibility of going to the restaurant. It's really like Pacino the legend is born in this scene and that brilliant scene is like us seeing what was to follow in his career.
Not only is there Brando and Pacino but also Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, John Cazale and Abe Vigoda turning in masterful performances. Another thing that really sticks out is how brave Coppola was for letting the story takes its time. There are many, many slow moments here where we get dialogue scenes that get dragged out. Everyone mentions the wedding sequence but this is a perfect example of where the slowness is such a benefit as it really gets you on the inside of understanding how this family works. Coppola allowing the film to takes its time was a dangerous move but it really pays off because there's not another film like this. A lot of future movies tried to copy the style and this certainly slow, building drama but none of them were as successful. Nino Rota's music is simply irresistible and the opening cords as the movie opens are just chilling. The cinematography is some of the most amazing you're ever going to see and the lighting here is among the greatest ever. Especially effective are the scenes inside the Don's office and how the light was used.
THE GODFATHER isn't going to get my vote as the greatest movie of all time, of the decade or even the greatest gangster picture. With that said, there's no question that this is still a essential part of American film history and with so much talent involved it's just amazing to watch it today and admire what all they were able to accomplish.
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