The Godfather Review
"The Godfather", Paramount Pictures, 1972
For me personally, Scorsese's films formed the preconceived notions of gangster movies. This film is far from that blueprint. When comparing The Godfather to the likes of Mean Streets or Goodfellas, characters come off as just that - characters.
Coppola instead grounds a much more visceral, almost organic tone. The Corleones feel like a real family, and their questionable dealings feel much more tangible. This film also masters mood in the same way. Whilst Chiaroscuro lighting is often utilised to draw attention to the gritty diegesis, it's balancing with natural lighting curles back to it's daunting levels of verisimilitude. This is built upon by the documentary style it sometimes slips into with the wide long shots only allowing audiences to peer into, on the surface, the sanctioned collected lifestyle of the family. This mastery of tone is also used to project a mediative feel. where we are effectively positioned to look at, retrospectively, the fall of tradition and the rise of new order. What this achieves is the underlying hypocrisy of loyalty. This presents an interesting look at the family unit. Love and affection is not cherished, but simply a part of "business". Whilst this is explored in the likes of Mean Streets, the melancholy somehow manages to translate much more movingly. Each character exceeds in adding something, providing different poignant angles towards the life that we are immersed in. I also love how the tonal consistency is manipulated in terms of ideology and spectatorship - the sequence following Sonny's horrific death is just as far away from anything warm as the opening sequence at the wedding. This sense of lifelessness that slowly builds urgency and tension, as powerful as it is, is still very much grounded.
Nevertheless, as critical as pretty much all the sequences are in the 3 acts in pushing audiences in uncomfortable territory that questions the morality of this loyalty, the runtime is sure to wear audiences out. Whilst this is a product of its contemplative feel that can't be helped, Coppola could have possibly focussed this retrospective tone on the more important sequences necessary to move the story along, so as to balance this out with a more vibrant sense of energy to engage audiences through a different mode of identification other than this immoral lens towards humanity.
It's simply just another level of spectacle - It's just so rich in fine detail and personality. I can imagine every single stage direction in the screenplay playing out. It's more than a film to simply go back and appreciate. It's one of those experiences where you can feel the presence of everyone involved.