I’ve reviewed some classics in my day, but this is only my second soiree with one of thee classics!
Screenplay By: Francis Ford Coppola & Mario Puzo
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
I was prepared to approach my review of The Godfather just like I would any other, but I realized that would be stupid. There’s a reason why The Godfather is such a talked about movie, and its popularity both with critics and casual movie goers means it has been discussed ad nauseum over the years. Needless to say I loved The Godfather, but I don’t feel another essay detailing what worked is necessary by this point. Instead I will give you a short paragraph dealing with my general thoughts on The Godfather followed by an argument that the movie stirred up in me.
As far as my general thoughts go, what can I say that hasn’t been said already? The Godfather is fantastic from start to finish, there isn’t a single second that felt off to me. Whether it was the acting, great across the board, or the story, interesting and captivating, I loved every second of The Godfather. The direction was large, the visuals were terrific, the writing was superb and insanely smart, etc., etc.. I know it sounds like I am gushing, but there’s a good reason for that, it’s because I am gushing. Perhaps The Godfather’s biggest strength is that it is almost three hours long yet it feels like it is about a half an hour at that. It gives you plenty to digest, but it never feels bloated in doing so, it is what I love, an epic that doesn’t come across like an epic. There’s really not much else to say in a general sense. Like I said earlier, I could go into detail and break down every reason why I loved The Godfather, but I don’t think that’s needed. We’ll leave it at the fact that The Godfather is a great movie worthy of its accolades.
What I would like to touch upon, what The Godfather caused to stir up inside of me, is the idea of the movie glorifying gangsters. It is my understanding through my readings on the movie that the biggest criticism of The Godfather was said glorification. I can see why people would launch such a criticism, but I think those people need to look closer at the world of The Godfather.
A movie like Casino glorifies its violence, but it does so in a very real world setting. It wants to meld the morality of the gangster with the morality of Joe Blow on the street and somehow identify them as the same. My biggest beef with Martin Scorsese is that too often I feel his films say, “Hey, look at this violence and these terrible guys, I love it, you know you love it, it’s so cool.” The Godfather does something much different with its world, it doesn’t try to tie it into the real world at all. The Godfather places a different moral code on these gangsters and then flat out says they are different, what they think of as righteous isn’t the same as what you may think is righteous, etc.. Coppola only wants you to see the glory in the gangsters once you realize that their world is not your world, that what he is glorifying about them has no place in the real world that we live in.
An important motif that is established to go with the real world versus gangster world aesthetic is the death of all those who don’t belong in the gang world. Appolonia is carefree and innocent and when she dies it as if this world rejects her innocence. Carlo was once normal but he desired to be a part of the gang world, however he is an outsider, he doesn’t understand that world and he dies for it in the end. Michael Corleone is the best example of this aesthetic. It is only after his war hero self has been killed that he can actually enter that gang world, the parts of him that didn’t reside in the sort of fantasy world that is the gangster had to be killed off. The Godfather does glorify violence and the gangster, but it does so by letting the audience know that this isn’t the world for them. It may be cool to look at and watch, but is a world where normal people go to die, and in the end where’s the glory in that?
There you have it, instead of listing the various reasons why The Godfather is a great movie I thought I’d offer something different. I’m sure some people will disagree with my take on the aesthetics of gangster life in The Godfather, but it is a distinction I felt needed to be made. Either way, the crux of the issue is that The Godfather is a great movie, one of the all-time best in fact, and that’s why you shouldn’t need me to tell you to see it.