January 2, 2021

The Godfather (1972)

Until yesterday, I had never watched The Godfather. This is clearly unacceptable and needed urgent attention. And we’ve decided, while we’re at it, to make a bit of a project, similar to the MCU Project that we did back in 2019. Each week we will watch a film and take turns to review it. This project does not yet have a name, but it does have a purpose, which is to introduce Bernard (and occasionally Karen and/or me too) to the greatest movies of all time. If you have suggestions for films to include, or indeed a name for the project, please leave them in the comments below. The only requirements we are putting on the films that we watch are:

  1. It can’t be something that Bernard has seen before. Obviously I don’t expect you to know which films he has and hasn’t seen, so I won’t berate you if you make a suggestion that violates this. Unless you specifically like being berated, in which case you need to add that as a special note on your order.
  2. It has to be age appropriate – a “15” certificate or lower.
  3. It can’t be something too recent. Not that I’ve got anything against recent films, but if it only came out last week and you’re already praising it as the greatest film of all time, then maybe you should chill the fuck out and wait to see how it stands the test of time before making any such grandiose declarations.

And on, to the first review of the project!

The Godfather

The film opens with a scene at Vito Corleone’s daughter’s wedding. While much partying, drinking and merriment goes on outside, the Don is in his cool, shady office, attending one visitor at a time. Already I can relate to him, as I know that that’s also my preferred way to party. He strokes a playful pussycat on his knee, and I find it hard to keep up with the dialogue as I’m so fixated on the cat. Gradually it’s established that pretty much everyone at the party owes the Don a favour, which he will collect upon when he needs it – everyone, that is, except his son Michael, who is there with his girlfriend, Kay. She’s shocked to discover that Michael’s dad is a mob boss, but he reassures her that “that’s my family. It’s not me.”

At this point I should mention that I’m usually really good at the game of “recognising actors when they were younger” but this film utterly stumped me, and I was gobsmacked when I consulted IMDB halfway through and discovered that Michael and Kay were played by Al Pacino and Diane Keaton respectively. And there were other further examples throughout the film of actors that I felt, in hindsight, I should have been able to recognise. I was clearly not on form that day.

After the fairly leisurely initial wedding scene, the film picks up pace quite considerably, and the plot gallops along thick and fast. You get to watch Michael’s steady inch-by-inch decline into the mob lifestyle, starting out just doing what he needs to do to protect his family, but with every incremental act a piece of his soul is lost, making the next step that little bit easier. By the end of the film, you realise that your not-unreasonable assumption that Vito Corleone was the titular “Godfather” turned out to be misguided.

When watching the film, you can generally tell when something bad is about to happen. The plot twists are not exactly telegraphed, but as a general rule if someone looks too happy then you know that something awful is about to happen to them. There was one curious Chekov’s Gun that was not unfired exactly, rather it turned out to be a cap gun –  the case of the undertaker Bonasera. At the very start of the film he is seen asking Don Corleone for a favour, and you then spend the whole film waiting to see what the Don asks for in return, your expectation being that it will be something substantial. When that moment finally comes, it’s startlingly underwhelming, in a disappointing yet deeply touching manner.

What’s Next?

Unlike the MCU Project, there is no rules on what comes next. The Shawshank Redemption is the top rated film on IMDB of all time, so that might be a logical next step, but then perhaps we should save the big guns for later on?


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