The Godfather

The Godfather

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Television takes a pretty bad rap. It is often derided for its stultifying properties, engendering of abject values and overall ability to vitiate the masses. Many even claim that it foments a sundering influence over families. I suppose there is some merit to such an assertion, but I can tell you that when I was growing up the TV was the node in which our otherwise fragmented family coalesced. I guess we would be referred to as `dysfunctional' today; my father didn't talk to us much and the dinner table was a surface in which to set the groceries until they were put away. If my parents did ask about how school went, a laconic `alright' would satisfy. But when we sat in front of that glowing cynosure, with its exogenous felicity and fruition, our reticence faded into commentary. Somehow the factitious world contained in that electronic box inspired us to notice each other. We watched and we talked.

So when it was deemed that I was mature enough to watch the network premier of `The Godfather' I was not only anticipating a good movie, I was looking forward to family bonding. I positively loved to listen to my father and older brothers (I'm the baby) engage in dialogue and repartee in response to the TV. Their insight brought more to light than my young mind could comprehend with just the presentation as is, and I felt edified as well as inclusive. Hey some folks have the visits to Yellowstone, I have this.

Even though it was too much for an adolescent to fully appreciate, I knew then that this movie was something special. And as I grew older I watched it every time it aired. Of course after videos arrived this was the first movie I purchased. It is the crme de le crme of films, of which I have watched at least 50 times. It is a work of art that I can call a masterpiece without a bit of hyperbole. It is my opinion the greatest picture ever made.

Though a substantial portion of the film takes place in Sicily, and many customs of that land (as well as cabala) are featured this is a very American story. It is no less than a stunning examination of the dichotomy that is success in the land of opportunity. It is a tale of the fine line between legitimacy and profligacy in the capitalist world, of the gray area that exists between transgression and ignominy.

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And if the film is a treatise on the American way then the opening line, `I believe in America', is its exordium. With those prefatory words Coppola sets the tone.

What follows is a congeries of dexterous camera shots, first-rate dialogue, incredible acting, untiring character development and one hell of a story. The juxtaposition of criminality and family honor/personal loyalty is achieved with utmost precision. The motif of personal rectitude vis--vis societal ethos pervades the film. The main characters embody this paradox. They are vicious yet decorous, violent yet urbane, heartless yet not without code.

The actors are at their best. Brando providing gravitas, Cann relishing his bellicose role, Keaton appearing to live her enduring conflict. It is Pacino of course who must steer the course, as his permutation is unveiled before us. Pacino achieves this vicissitude with a subtlety that resembles an insidious whisper, inaudible to those who underestimate him.

If you will allow me an indulgence I would like to comment on the outstanding ending to this work. At times movies are often beloved for memorable scenes. The finale of this tale is as piquant as they come. Coppola understands the power of the doorway, and the shot of Kay's face, overcome with the realization of her husband's duplicity, as the door closes, symbolically shutting her out of his life, is sheer pathos. Did I mention that I love this ending? In fact the par excellence of this conclusion has soured me on the sequels. I have watched them and think they are great, but I do not possess them and never will. Any extension of this saga is a reproach to this superb terminus ad quem.

`The Godfather' is a film that must be watched numerous times to absorb and appreciate the many names, nuances, and instances. I highly recommend it.
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