I believe in America.
Let's get this out of the way right here and now; I do not care for The Godfather...
at least, that is, not as much as I'm "supposed" to. And it's obviously not the first time in this thread that some sort of disappointment has happened with me and a New Hollywood classic, and it probably won't be the last, so brace yourselves. At any rate, I do feel that The Godfather
is a good movie for certain technical aspects of it that are pretty much objectively, undeniably impressive (aspects that I'll be getting into soon here), but on the whole, I've just never felt it was a great
movie, much less One Of The Greatest Motion Pictures Of All Time. If you feel like it, you can chalk that up to my internal expectations being too high before I ever watched it, due to all the critical and cultural baggage it's build up over the decades as one of the Greatest Films Ever, but the undeniably iconic status of The Godfather
is just something that can't be avoided, and besides, there are plenty of quote/unquote Great Films that I've personally felt were
great, so I doubt high expectations had anything to do with my opinion in this case.
Anyway, I could start my complaints here by nitpicking certain elements of the film that seem to get a free pass from criticism by everyone just because of the legendary status of the movie that they're in, like how some of the dialogue is just clunky, obvious exposition, or how ridiculous and blatantly shoehorned-in Connie's plate-smashing fight
with Carlo is, as, apparently, Coppola only filmed it because Paramount wanted the film to have more violent scenes to make it more "exciting" for audiences, an absolutely absurd studio demand if I've ever heard one (but Paramount also tried to fire Coppola from the production a number of times, so just keep that little tidbit in mind there). But, I won't dwell on such minutiae here; instead, I'll just talk about the main thing holding back The Godfather
from greatness for me, which is, well, its seeming insistence on forcing
greatness upon itself, rather than allowing it to occur more naturally. I don't know if that's because of the film's somewhat broad characterizations (i.e. Sonny, the quick-tempered hothead, Michael, the fallen angel, or Vito, the scheming, shadowy patriarch), the occasionally unnatural, melodramatic bit of dialogue, or the somewhat ponderous, self-conscious, inauthentic, emotionally detached, and overly "operatic" tone of the general affair, but on the whole, it seems to be trying a bit too hard in general to be "Great", so it's always ended up falling short of that mark for me, as much as I wish I could love it as much as so many others have, and I find myself torn between admiring the film's ambitions and finding it reaching too hard, so to speak. I wish I could go into more detail on this point here, but that would involve writing a full review, which I don't have time for at the moment, so maybe someday I'll explain more.
But like I said, I do feel it's at least a good
movie, and I think I actually appreciate more now than I ever did before, finally watching it in its full, uncensored and uninterrupted by commercials glory. And, while again, I don't feel that The Godfather
quite reaches greatness as a whole, there are many individual elements of it that are great, whether it be Gordon Willis's shadowy, high-contrast cinematography that literalizes the spiritual darkness of the film's characters into its physical world, Nino Rota's lush, sweeping original score (with additional contributions from Carmine Coppola, who was you-know-who's own papa), the various costumes, props, and on-location shots that constitute the rich period details of the film's vision of post-World War II America, the stellar performances that breathed life into some of the most iconic characters in film history, or the film's often fairly involving, compellingly dramatic moments in its epic tale of the dark side of The American Dream, despite my complaints about it otherwise.
Significance To The Movement/Cinema As A Whole:
I mean, are you kidding me? Out of all the films I had to choose to cover for this project, this was the easiest by far
; I mean, where do I even begin? It won the Oscars for Best Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and of course, Picture (although believe it or not, it actually wasn't
the biggest winner at the awards that year, as you'll see below). It currently holds an overall average score of an outstanding 9.3
on Rotten Tomatoes. It's been endlessly parodied throughout popular culture for the better part of half a century now. It placed at #2 on the 2002 Sight & Sound directors' list of greatest films, just behind Citizen Kane
, which is appropriate, since, in terms of critical praise, this is basically the Kane
of the New Hollywood era, only possibly even greater in overall stature, since, intead of initially failing at the box office and then being steadily reevaluated as a Great Film over the decades like Welles's film, The Godfather
was immediately a massive hit, becoming not only the highest-grossing film of the year, but also the highest grossing film of all time
. And before you mention Gone With The Wind
as a competitor for a film with the greatest overall status, this has a higher average on RT by a measure of 6 points, so don't even bother.
Anyway, The Godfather
is also significant as finally serving as the big break for Francis Ford Coppola, after a decade of alternately directing softcore porn comedies, working as one of Roger Corman's many young proteges (who he actually paid back with a small role in Godfather II
), and struggling to find his first real success within the larger Hollywood system. So in retrospect, The Godfather
is significant as the breakthrough film for the man who would become one of the most iconic directors of the era (arguably even the
most), as well as serving as an early example of the movement rediscovering some of the ambition that defined the larger productions of the Classical era, particularly the historical Epics, in terms of the sheer scope and breadth of its sprawling, character & sub-plot filled, decade/continent-spanning three-hour story, but doing so in its own more pessimistic, down to earth sort of way that's oh-so New Hollywood.
And besides that, The Godfather
is notable as serving as the big breakthroughs for a number of major stars of the movement, including Diane Keaton, John Cazale, and of course, Al Pacino (again, you may have heard of him), as well as serving as the comeback vehicle for an icon of 50's Hollywood, the Oscar-winning Marlon Brando, who hadn't had a real hit in over a decade by this point, but who would undergo a significant career renaissance throughout the rest of the decade because of this film. And besides that, The Godfather
is also significant in its impact on gangster fiction in general, as it sheds the often heavy-handed moralizing of certain Hays Code-bound gangster flicks of Classical Hollywood, presenting its complex, non-stereotypical characters as a somewhat justified reaction by immigrants to the already inherently corrupt larger society they're trying to integrate into, giving us a sympathetic, machismo-heavy, ethnically-insular "inside" perspective from an actual Italian-American director, which helped set the stage for the mobster classics of Scorsese, as well as a certain David Chase-created series in the late 90's that more or less single-handedly jumpstarted the current golden age of TV we're still currently in. So, The Godfather
is at least a good film, besides just being one of the most essential, influential, and generally acclaimed ones of all time as well; if you haven't seen it by this point in your life, then what the hell are you waiting for?
Other significant New Hollywood films from '72:
While The Godfather
was obviously far and away the New Hollywood winner of the year, '72 also saw Brando continuing his comeback with Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial, X-rated erotic drama Last Tango In Paris
, as well as the release of George Roy Hill's adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's iconic, experimental, sci-fi(-ish) novel Slaughterhouse-Five
, Bob Fosse netting himself a Best Director Oscar (and 7 others!) with his Weimar Republic-era musical Cabaret
, which radically updated the out-of-date genre with its off-kilter editing style, humble, completely diegetic soundtrack, and discussion of certain mature subjects (including abortion, bi-sexuality/infidelity, and the rise of Nazism in Germany), while John Boorman gave us Deliverance
, a harrowing survival thriller that gave 70's icon Burt Reynolds his breakthrough role, and ensured an entire generation of people would never, ever be able to listen to banjos quite the same way again.