Movie Review: The Godfather
January 17, 2008

"The Godfather" had already come and gone well before I was born. Released in 1972, it did well enough to warrant two sequels and a fair bit of infamy as one of the greatest movies ever, but none of that was such that I had the chance to see it myself until this evening. I could make a lot of excuses, certainly. There's the fact that VHS wasn't terribly common around these parts until the middle of the 80s, but then that leaves twenty years unaccounted for. Then there were my strict parents, who didn't believe in R-rated movies even for themselves, much less their children. But I've been out on my own for most of 10 years and still I hadn't seen it. Why? I guess because I figured it couldn't really be that good, that I wasn't missing out on that much. Of course, I was wrong.

Tonight, I rectified that wrong and I'm glad I did. From playing the recent video game from Electronic Arts, I knew that the story would interest me. I'd even seen a few short clips from the three-hour movie, but watching two or three minutes from the middle of the movie isn't a fruitful exercise. No, you have to start at the beginning and work forward. The beginning in this case, of course, is a wedding.

One of the things I like about "The Godfather" is that it's not afraid to take a moment to celebrate the small things that define the human condition, to make everything personal so that you not only are fascinated by the strange lives these people lead, but interested in seeing them succeed. Even as they participate in brutal activity, even as they spout off about abhorring violence while at the same time ordering a hit on someone they know can't be trusted, they are human and likeable.

The wedding is the first place where we meet Michael, a young man played by a surprisingly young Al Pacino. He's at the glorious event and he's telling his girlfriend just a little bit about the family around him. Though he's grown up around it his whole life, it's clear that he sees the fantastical side of things and doesn't really associate himself with it. He even announces rather ironically that the lifestyle he's telling his lady friend about is that of his father, not him.

Naturally, the rest of the movie lets the viewer become immersed in that lifestyle and get to know the key players in a frightening yet in some ways ideal New York of the 1940s. If you've somehow missed the movie up to this point (as I did), I'm certainly not going to spoil it with a plot summary, and if you've already seen it there's not much point in me doing so either because the story in "The Godfather" is the sort that sticks with a person perfectly well.

Suffice it to say the plot has several big twists that you probably won't see coming, yet it doesn't make them sensational. In fact, those things have been artistically downplayed, so that in a way they're more shocking to the viewer than if they had been exaggerated. This is a sort of direction we don't see much of in the current day--except in arthouse bits--and it's one of the reasons that "The Godfather" is such a beautiful film. It has all the things we go to movies to see--shootouts, intense dialogue, glorious breasts--but you don't feel like a heathen for enjoying them.

If there's a complaint to be leveled against the movie at all, it's that even at three hours, it feels way too short. When the credits started rolling I felt completely satisfied that I had seen a good movie and I knew that I would have gladly kept watching for another two or three hours. Lucky for me, they made two sequels. I'll have to make sure that I view them without waiting another 28 years.


Most recent blog posts from Jason Venter...

Genj Genj - January 17, 2008 (10:43 AM)
Haha I think I remember being shocked at you telling me on AIM you never saw the Godfather. I told you it was good.
sashanan sashanan - January 17, 2008 (11:58 AM)
I have dutifully watched - also far too late - the entire trilogy in 2006. Apart from the fact that the quality drops off some (particularly for the final episode), to be honest the whole thing was too slow for my liking. Maybe a lot of the movie's power comes from seeing it in its era, from sitting there and going like "they're not going to do that, they really can't just go and do that, they...oh my God, they just DID that!" when by now I'm pretty used to ruthlessness on the part of movie characters, and the action is dragged out considerably.

But I did enjoy - and evidently this was a major point for you as well - how human these characters are in spite of the dreadful things they do, and how much sympathy you develop for them.
WilltheGreat WilltheGreat - January 17, 2008 (04:53 PM)
*makes you an offer you can't refuse*
shotgunnova shotgunnova - January 19, 2008 (02:23 PM)
Like others, I felt the movie was too slow. Maybe it was because all the good parts had been spoiled slowly over the years, or that the memorable lines had turned into old hat by friends, but there's no way I could have sat through an extra three hours afterwards. I'd still rank it a heavy 10/10 just the same, 'cause it's certainly a monument to great acting and direction.

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