An elegant powerful crime saga for the ages is being re-released in limited venues prior to its original March 1972 opening.
Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather was the first of three installments that was a gamble at the time for the 31-year-old that paid off immensely in collaboration with its author (and co-adapter) Mario Puzo.
It was set in the aftermath of WWII centering on the Sicilian syndicate of the Corleone family led by ‘Don’ Vito Corleone (Marion Brando).
Betrayals, ambushing, revenge, and garroting are all in what was a grad return for Brando (after a decline in the previous decade.) Ford all the decor and attention to mores in an insular world, the composed, measured execution allows the genre to breathe was unyielding grace.
From the wedding of Vito’s daughter Connie (Talia Shire) who would go on to Rocky fame) to a baptism scenes of dealing with favors with debts, especially when it concerns loyalty to family business.
Brando’s Vito exudes such a presence in the old-fashioned, yet chillingly cogent figure who makes the most of his screen time. The breakthrough turn is provided by Al Pacino as Vito’s youngest rebelling war hero and Ivy League grand Michael who will gradually lean the ropes of the business after pop opts against rising boss Sollozzo (Al Letter) with lucrative plans in narcotics.
In all of the wantonness, one is drawn into the machinations of a clan that will do whatever is needed to eventually hone its efficiency through consolidation. Especially when capo Clemenza is a key for an approved Michael to exact a Trattoria execution in response for an attempted assassination.
That’s one of a few shocking scenes in a movie that knows its way around the mundane, behind-the-scenes activity as Coppola realizes the potential for impact from the quieter interludes. For the pungency and wit of the script to take hold the cast led by Brando and Pacino instill the vision of the filmmaking that warms to the values from one’s heritage.
James Caan is the oldest, impetuous son Sonny who’s most remembered for a violent Bonnie & Clyde like highway toll booth scene, and the late John Cazale is the lovable, if bumbling middle brother Fredo. Of the many characters, Robert Duvall’s equanimous adopted ‘consigliere’ (of Irish descent) Tom Hagen, Diane Keaton’s girlfriend, later wife Kay stand out; notably in scenes opposite Brando an Pacino, respectively. In lesser, through notable turns are Abe Vigoda as Corleone ally Sal Tessio and Sterling Hayden’s on-the-take police captain.
The opportunity to check out arguably the standard bearer of the genre that has been a major influence in the medium in a new pristine presentation Is ‘an offer you can’t refuse,’ In its masterful glory all the way through a crisply, dynamic cross-cutting conclusion.