How have I not seen this sooner?
As part of my Cinema Shame challenge, this one has always been my biggest embarrassment. There was always the opportunity, and I turned it down time and time again. Maybe it was the understated but iconic cover art that always seemed to scream “I’m important!!” every time I saw it, or the annoying heaps and heaps of praise it has gotten, has always gotten, and will forever get… Or maybe I just presumed I’ve seen better, more recent, tighter mafia movies already. Whatever the case may be, it’s always been just outside my radar, an empty space where film knowledge should be.
From the opening scenes you immediately get thrown into calm before the storm. Even with the opening monologue and it’s horrific subject matter are quiet and understated. We visit a wedding reception that wouldn’t be out of place in the deepest parts of Italy. You can practically taste the freshly cured sausage on the plates.
As the film goes on and we are introduced to a wide variety of the worlds worst scum, you can’t help but empathize with these fully human characters. Coppola lets his script breathe, gaining more and more life with each beat. Despite the 3 hour running time, the film flies by, even in the more contemplative scenes.
Though I always knew it to be the case, it’s still fascinating to see how much of modern crime cinema (and more recently, television) has been influenced by this seminal masterpiece. The focus on character over plotting, the almost meditative pace interrupted by extreme instances of violence and cruelty, even the sprawling, ten year time line… It’s amazing how influential this film has been and will continue to be.
I’m glad I finally forced myself to see it. I’m glad the praise was not hyperbole. And I’m glad that it exists. The Godfather IS a masterpiece, clearly.
4 1/2 out of 5 Bullets