Monday, October 03, 2016

Thoughts on The Godfather

There aren't that many "classic" movies on Stan, unfortunately, but I noticed that The Godfather films are all there, and viewed the first one, for the first time in my life, last night.   (I was 12 when it came out, and just never got around to viewing it as an adult.)

I have to say, I don't quite understand the very high regard in which it is held.

The first hour or so is good; very good in fact.  The whole opening sequence at the wedding is engaging and a nice way to introduce the characters.   The initial start of the Mafia wars is handled well, but after that, it started to lose me: 

*   I didn't like the sudden leaps forward in time in the second half with inadequate explanation of how the characters got there (emotionally, not physically).  Biggest case in point - Michael reappearing in the US after disappearing for (I think) two years, and immediately asking Kay to marry him.  Nothing about why or how quickly she accepts this - and Michael is obviously not the same guy she was in love with at the start of the movie.

*  Which bring me to Al Pacino's acting - for a movie about his character's descent into the banality of the Mafia's brand of corporate evil (where murder is nothing personal - just "business"), we really don't get much insight into why he takes the path.  His acting after his character has taken the first step (with the murder in the restaurant) is really just somewhat static, unemotional staring for the most part.  (The character seems a lot more unengaged in life than his father.)  The problem may well be with the script - I assume the novel gives more insight into his inner emotions, but the movie sure doesn't.

*  This may be considered an unfair comparison, but the movie suffered in my mind when it reminded me of The Untouchables, which I do hold in very high regard as a thrilling, well written and great looking gangster movie with a serious moral question at its heart.

There is one other positive thing that struck me about The Godfather after it finished - the complete lack of any serious swearing.   It was made in 1972 and got an R rating at the time, I think:  I'm sure they could have fitted some in, and it would presumably have been authentic to the period.   But it is one of the clearest examples around of a movie which can feel completely authentic with a complete lack of swearing.   Especially compared to the tedious use of swearing that became commonplace in subsequent (especially Martin Scorsese directed) gangster movies.

Anyway, with my overall somewhat underwhelmed response, I see that I am not entirely alone - if you Google the topic, you find quite a few people asking the question "Am I the only person who doesn't think The Godfather was all that great?"   Don't get me wrong - the movie didn't annoy me in the way other over-rated movies have done.  (I should make a list one day.)  But it does seem puzzling to me that no critic seems to have noted the above points as inadequacies in the finished product.   [Update:  here's one article that is harsher on the movie than I am, but it basically agrees with the points I make about the incomplete explanation of key characters and their motives.]

Finally, some trivia from the internet age:

* the translated lyrics to the obviously risque song at the wedding can be found here;

* I hadn't heard this before - but Wikipedia tells me that the horses head was a real one.  I thought it looked pretty convincing.  Yuck. 


Anonymous said...

Read the book Philistine.

Steve said...

Actually, I thought, reading around a bit, that movie reviewers thought the film was a bit classier than the book...