The Godfather (film)
Note: This page was copy pasted from the original Reception Wikis on Miraheze due to them being deleted.
This film has been preserved in the National Film Registry in 1990.
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The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mario Puzo, based on Puzo's best-selling 1969 novel of the same name. The film stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, and Diane Keaton. It is the first installment in The Godfather trilogy. The story, spanning from 1945 to 1955, chronicles the Corleone family under patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando), focusing on the transformation of his youngest son, Michael Corleone (Pacino), from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.
Paramount Pictures obtained the rights to the novel for the price of $80,000, before it gained popularity. Studio executives had trouble finding a director; the first few candidates turned down the position before Coppola signed on to direct the film but disagreement followed over casting several characters, in particular, Vito and Michael. Filming took place primarily on location around New York City and in Sicily, and was completed ahead of schedule. The musical score was composed principally by Nino Rota, with additional pieces by Carmine Coppola.
The Godfather premiered at the Loew's State Theatre on March 14, 1972, and was widely released in the United States on March 24, 1972. It was the highest-grossing film of 1972, and was for a time the highest-grossing film ever made, earning between $250 and $291 million at the box office. The film received universal acclaim from critics and audiences, with praise for the performances, particularly those of Brando and Pacino, the directing, screenplay, cinematography, editing, score, and portrayal of the mafia. The Godfather acted as a catalyst for the successful careers of Coppola, Pacino, and other relative newcomers in the cast and crew. The film also revitalized Brando's career, which had declined in the 1960s, and he went on to star in films such as Last Tango in Paris, Superman, and Apocalypse Now. At the 45th Academy Awards, the film won Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Puzo and Coppola). In addition, the seven other Oscar nominations included Pacino, Caan, and Duvall for Best Supporting Actor and Coppola for Best Director.
The Godfather is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made, as well as a landmark of the gangster genre. It was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1990, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and is ranked the second-greatest film in American cinema (behind Citizen Kane) by the American Film Institute. It was followed by sequels The Godfather Part II (1974) and The Godfather Part III (1990).
The Godfather "Don" Vito Corleone is the head of the Corleone mafia family in New York. He is at the event of his daughter's wedding. Michael, Vito's youngest son and a decorated WW II Marine is also present at the wedding. Michael seems to be uninterested in being a part of the family business. Vito is a powerful man and is kind to all those who give him respect but is ruthless against those who do not. But when a powerful and treacherous rival wants to sell drugs and needs Don's influence for the same, Vito refuses to do it. What follows is a clash between Vito's fading old values and the new ways which may cause Michael to do the thing he was most reluctant to do and wage a mob war against all the other mafia families which could tear the Corleone family apart.
Why It's a Movie You Won't (and would never) Refuse
- What should be noted is that not a lot of people had hope for the film adaptation or even some of the crew members who were involved. The film itself mostly got under production when the book stayed on the best-seller list for over a year. The fact that the film ended up working out as well as it did is nothing short of a miracle.
- Francis Ford Coppola wasn’t an obvious choice as director considering some of his earlier films didn’t do well at the box office.
- Al Pacino had appeared in 2 minor films
- Nobody wanted Marlon Brando aside from Puzo and Coppola
- Incredible acting from the entire cast which is very subtle and nuanced. There's a reason why Marlon Brando, James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino all got Oscar nominations.
- Similar to Mario Puzo’s novel, the film’s a complex generational saga filled with sex and violence. The characters are given recognizable human qualities and are placed within intricate soap opera plotlines. The film does a more romanticized take of the mob life, with romantic ideas about going to lavish parties and the Don giving out favors on the day of his daughter’s wedding, the movie does make being a mobster look awfully entertaining, instead of being portrayed as simply angry and abusive. Plus, Vito Corleone is more than just a one-dimensional crime lord; he's also a charismatic dealmaker, a smart manipulator, and a generous family man who deeply cares for his wife and kids.
- Also, nobody in the film ever says the word "mafia" at any point, which improves the legacy of the groundbreaking nature of the film even more. You've got this film to thank for most of the mafia movies and TV we have today (including the critically-acclaimed The Sopranos)
- The film single-handedly saved the old Hollywood studio system which at the time was considered artistically bankrupt and was in crisis, struggling to connect with audiences as it was generating empty spectacles: by-the-numbers musicals, action epics, and melodramas. The startled 70s audiences with a story that was both more physically realistic and psychologically intense. It created a visceral experience of an urgent portrait of the animal world without and our animal hearts within.
- The film abandons the artificial conventions of studio filmmaking for a more realistic aesthetic.
- It was shot on location rather than studio sets.
- Elaborate camera shots and zoom lenses were abandoned for more stripped-down cinematography.
- The script adopted an intricate, multilayered narrative script with more of the texture and complexity of everyday life.
- The film borrows various aspects from European cinema -- more specifically French avant-garde and Italian neo-realism.
- Scenes were shot in a wide tableau format to convey the feeling of a painting.
- Shadows and colors were boosted to convey specific feelings and emotions.
- Story beats were invested with an operatic quality that gave them heightened meaning.
- The film abandons the artificial conventions of studio filmmaking for a more realistic aesthetic.
- Fantastic writing and a script that's a masterclass in screenwriting. Tragic hero Michael Corleone gets a slow-but-steady turn to darkness over the course of three hours that doesn't feel forced, it also draws inspiration from various tragedies from dark Roman gods and follows in the "tragic sublime".
- To put things into perspective, Michael's a war hero who doesn't want any part of his family's mob boss business. Unfortunately, when his father Vito attempts to take a stand against organized narcotics -- becoming a civil-minded hero -- he then becomes a constant target for mob bosses even more malevolent than Vito, which would force Michael to reignite his family loyalties. There's an additional scene where some corrupt cops dismiss Vito's bodyguards, which further ignites Michael's transformation as he wants to protect and avenge his father. Add the fact that his first wife gets murdered by a car bomb and his older brother's killed in a car, and this would basically force him to take an "eye for an eye" and become the new don as a final resort and wipes out New York's other dons and Sonny's murderer. He got his revenge, and yet Michael became the very thing he tried to avoid, and even more ruthless than his father ever was.
- Nino Rota's composing score features some of the most distinctive musical themes of the 70s. Plus when combined with Willis' superlative cinematography with striking imagery (such as the shot of a murder with the Statue of Liberty in the far background), the music helped turn potential stock characters into complicated, believable people.
- While the film is extremely faithful to the novel it’s based on, it focuses on several key moments of loyalty and betrayal, allowing them to build intensity. In fact, these moments are more remembered than the melodramatic contrivances.
- Even though the characters are all fictional it's still very rooted in real history. It takes place between 1945 and 1955, and this post-war setting forms a lot of the plot. Michael had recently come from war when he attended his sister’s wedding in the opening scene. The scene nicely introduces him as the wayward one who refuses to get into the family business...initially. The Corleone family came over from Sicily at the turn of the century, and the film has quite a bit to say about immigration.
- Loads of symbolism in nearly every corner.
- The Godfather is characterized by the difference between family and the family of the mob. Doors are used as motives showing the division between those worlds. For instance, when Michael visits his father in the hospital, Michael's face is partly covered by a door showing his dual nature between his wife and the family business. Another example is when Sonny had sex with a woman against a door while Tom was on the other side telling him to get back to his mob duties. Then, during the final scene of the movie, a door closes on Kay after Michael lies about Carlo (Connie's husband)'s death. Michael has completely embraced his mob scene and his wife can no longer trust him.
- An iconic moment involves scenes of Connie's son being baptized juxtaposed with shots of Michael's crew murdering the other mob bosses. Michael's baptized as the Godfather the same time he becomes an actual godfather to his nephew.
- The film is permeated through nostalgia. The characters all yearn for an older simpler time; a time of family values. Vito Corleone refuses to do business in drugs, despite admitting it's the future of the mafia. His refusal is what leads to his assassination attempt, Later when he dies in his garden his grandson is seen running through the garden as Vito spends his last few moments adapting a more nihilistic way of life.
- Shades of light and color are also an important factor in the film, mainly when dealing with morality. Most of Vito's office is shot in stark darkness, along with his eyes. Connie's apartment on the other hand is very bright and lit since she doesn't have to be too involved in the Corleone mob business being the only daughter in the family. The Italians all wear muted colors while Kay (Michael's girlfriend and eventually wife) is always wearing bright, flowery colors, suggesting she's an outsider, but then towards the ending, Kay's wearing a muted beige jacket since the family business is nearly inescapable for her at this point.
- And then there's the usage of oranges in the film. Anytime there are oranges onscreen, someone nearby is about to die pretty soon. Vito buys some oranges right before his assassination attempt, Sonny drives by a sign promoting Florida orange juice right before he's gunned down, and Vito dies for real while he's eating an orange.
The Only Refusable Quality
- There are some unlikable characters, if not too many.
The Godfather currently holds a 97% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 133 reviews with an average rating of 9.4 out of 10 and a critic consensus that reads "One of Hollywood's greatest critical and commercial successes, The Godfather gets everything right; not only did the movie transcend expectations, it established new benchmarks for American cinema". On Metacritic, it holds a rare 100/100 score based on 15 reviews, meaning “universal acclaim”. Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune gave the film a four out of four stars and stated in his review "To permit us a glimpse at The Mob, with all of its ethnic insularity, is like giving a chronic gambler a chance to wander above the false mirrors that overlook every casino". Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a four out of four stars as well and stated "The story by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola is a brilliant conjuring act, inviting us to consider the Mafia entirely on its own terms". Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times stated "The Godfather is overflowing with life, rich with all the grand emotions and vital juices of existence, up to and including blood".
It is often considered to be one of, if not the greatest film ever made.
Awards and nominations
The Godfather was nominated for eleven Academy Awards including Best Film Editing. It won three including Best Picture. Marlon Brando won the Academy Award for Best Actor, but like George C. Scott did with Patton, he too refused to accept his Oscar due to poor treatment of Native Americans.