- directed by=Francis Ford Coppola
- duration=175 Minutes
- Average ratings=9,2 of 10 Stars
- Mario Puzo
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The superb, three-part gangster saga was inaugurated with this film from Italian-American director Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather (1972. The first two parts of the lush and grand saga are among the most celebrated, landmark films of all time. Many film reviewers consider the second part equal or superior to the original, although the first part was a tremendous critical and commercial success – and the highest grossing film of its time. This mythic, tragic film contributed to resurgence in the American film industry, after a decade of competition from cinema abroad.
One of the original “Movie Brats” who had not had a hit after seven films, director Coppola collaborated on the epic film’s screenplay with Mario Puzo who had written a best-selling novel of the same name about a Mafia dynasty (the Corleones. The Godfather catapulted Francis Ford Coppola to directorial super stardom, and popularized the following euphemistic phrase (of brutal coercion. I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” The almost three hours, R-rated saga film (for violence and graphic language) won three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando refused to accept the award) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola. The other seven nominations included three for Best Supporting Actor (James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino) Best Director, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Costume Design. One of The Godfather’s original eleven nominations was removed, Best Music (Original Dramatic Score) when it was determined that Nino Rota’s score had been used for a previous film.
Gangster films are one of the oldest of film genres (starring Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart) emerging as an influential force in the early 1930s (e.g., Little Caesar (1930) Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932. This gangster film re-invented the gangster genre, elevating the classic Hollywood gangster film to a higher level by portraying the gangster figure as a tragic hero. The rich and enthralling film is characterized by superb acting and deep character studies, beautiful photography and choreography, authentic recreation of the period, a bittersweet romantic sub-plot, a rich score by Nino Rota, and superbly-staged portrayals of gangster violence. Its grim, dark passages and bright exterior scenes are all part of the beautiful cinematography by Gordon Willis.
The Godfather is an insightful sociological study of violence, power, honor and obligation, corruption, justice and crime in America. Part I of The Godfather Trilogy centers on the Corleone crime “family” in the boroughs of New York City in the mid-1940s, dominated at first by aging godfather/patriarch “Don” Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando in a tremendous, award-winning acting portrayal that revived his career. A turn-of-the-century Sicilian immigrant, he is the head of one of the five Italian-American “families” that operates a crime syndicate. The ‘honorable’ crime “family, working outside the system due to exclusion by social prejudice, serves as a metaphor for the way business (the pursuit of the American dream) is conducted in capitalistic, profit-making corporations and governmental circles.
This epic story traces the history of their close-knit Mafia family and organization over a ten year period (although the specific words “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” are not found in the film’s script – they were replaced with “the family. The presiding, dominant Corleone patriarch, who is threatened by the rise of modern criminal activities – the drug trade, is ultimately succeeded by his decent youngest son Michael (Al Pacino) a US Marine Corps officer in WWII who becomes even more ruthless to persist. Family loyalty and blood ties are juxtaposed with brutal and vengeful blood-letting and the inevitable downfall of the family. Romanticized scenes of the domestic home life of members of the family – a family wedding, shopping, a baptism, kitchen cooking, etc., are intertwined with scenes of horrific violence and murder contracts – a total of 23 deaths litter the film. Over 50 scenes involved food and drink.