Yes, it took me until I was thirty-one years of age to see The Godfather for the first time.
Obviously I’ve heard a lot about it but I’ve never felt an urge to watch it, especially with it being three hours long. Despite being called out on this subject multiple times I didn’t feel any pressure to see it either. Everyone’s experiences are built up from different sources; mine just happened to not include this film.
This week however I had a few hours to myself and felt the urge. So I plonked myself down and did my best not to expect too much. Having heard so much I figured it could only be a let down. One of the best films ever made? What did people know? Hmmm I say. Hm!
Well…I guess ‘they’ aren’t wrong. This film has stayed in my thoughts since I finished it and I’ll happily admit that it’s added to my overall love of film. It’s quite unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.
As this film has been deconstructed and discussed for over forty years there really isn’t anything I can say that hasn’t been already. So rather than try to be clever about it I’ll share the things that really stuck out to me.
Possibly the most striking aspect of this film is how despite the long running time and generally very sedate pace the story is riveting. It quickly becomes apparent that everything has meaning. Nothing is wasted. A look or a silent moment is just as important as shouting and screaming.
When that sedateness is punctured the violence is nasty but never gratuitous. The lives these characters lead can end abruptly and that is superbly displayed. Those deaths however did come across a bit corny and melodramatic at times.
Usually these films portray the characters as larger than life,. Here however we get an almost favourable view. They’re men doing a job. They still have to deal with family and friends whilst keeping others off their backs. It’s an interesting take.
Pacino doesn’t shout? That was odd. Also frustrating as he proves here just how good he can be. Cool, calculating and brooding. There is so much conveyed by his eyes. The change from war hero to head of the family is subtle at first but as the years move on it becomes clearer that despite his Father trying to keep him away he is naturally suited to the role. Perfectly played.
I’ve seen the stereotype based on Brando so many times. Turns out it’s just a small part of the role. Yes he’s very distinctive but he isn’t just the Don. He’s actually surprisingly thoughtful and calm, not looking to abuse the power he has amassed. There’s a certain irony there considering what it must have taken to get that power. I’ve seen comments before saying that he overacts. I have to disagree. It’s a powerfully reserved performance.
The cinematography is great whilst the huge supporting cast was both a shock (didn’t know Adrian was the Don’s Daughter) and well chosen. Caan has always come across as a bit of a douche to me and he seemingly uses that to his advantage here.
I could go on. Essentially, The Godfather is what everyone says it is. One of the best.