One of the exciting things about Emily is that she is a film fan just like myself. To this end, we’ve already watched four films together in the space of a week. When I asked if she’d like to watch Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy, she answered ‘Yes’ without hesitation. We started at roughly five o’clock, and finished at a quarter past eight, such is the length of this film, but in those three hours my appreciation of this legendary movie had skyrocketed.
When Bex was still here, she told Jamie and I off for constantly going on about The Artist, and I can see why. When I first watched The Godfather, I was told that it was the greatest movie I would ever see in my life, or words to those effect. After three, disjointed, hour-long chunks, I wasn’t impressed. Jamie and John looked at me expectantly, and I simply couldn’t mirror their enthusiasm. I had no idea what was going on!
However, I knew the fault lay within me, because this is easily one of the most universally acclaimed films of all time. If 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and 9.2 on IMDb doesn’t mean anything to you, then perhaps the list of influences it has had, on films such as Star Wars to TV shows varying from The Simpsons to Breaking Bad, will give you an idea of how much this film means to society.
With this watching, I now understand what went wrong the first time: I didn’t use my brain enough. I must have laid back and expected the film to happen to me, rather than actively try to engage with it. I quite like entertainment where I can just relax and enjoy it, rather than have to do any work myself. However, that tactic just won’t work for The Godfather, a film you really need to concentrate for in order to reap the rewards. It took both our combined brainpower to suss this film, making this something of a team effort, but one I was happy to undergo.
Even when I was concentrating hard, it’s still hard to get exactly what is going on, and who everybody is. If you’ll recall a story about my Dad and Boromir from my Seven Samurai review, there are more than a few Boromirs in this story, i.e. people who are killed and I’m not exactly sure who they are! Luca? Tessio? Who are these people? Stuff for my next watch perhaps. It’s a huge cast in this film, and you have to be vigilant if you want to be exactly sure who everybody is, and what their motives are.
Nevertheless, a little grey matter will help the plot blossom like a flower in front of your eyes. Watch as a film producer (John Marley) wakes up with his horse’s head in his bed after refusing an offer presented to him by Tom (Robert Duvall); as Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), the Don of a Sicilian Mafia family is shot in cold blood by Sollozzo’s (Al Lettieri) men, when Vito refuses to grant him services purely because he dislikes the drug trade; as Vito’s youngest son Michael (Al Pacino), reluctantly offers to kill Sollozzo and his corrupt police escort McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) in a bloody shoot out at a small café; as Michael then proceeds to hide out in Sicily, until the whole thing blows over; as Vito tries to make peace with the Five Families after the death of his son Santino (James Caan); and how Michael then eliminates this peace after his father’s death by assassinating each of the Dons. The most exciting thing to notice is how Michael, originally wanting nothing to do with his criminal family, inevitably evolves into his father, and is referred to as Don Corleone in the very last scene. He even becomes a Godfather! The betrayal of his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) is as tragic as it is darkly humorous, and makes the film that much better.
It’s a complex movie, but not impenetrable, and one that I’m glad to have reassessed for the better. Dark and intelligent, and deeply rewarding. I’m looking forward to Parts II and III, to see how the whole story fits together.