The Godfather

The Godfather ★★★★★

I'm not sure how many times I've seen "The Godfather" since its release in 1972 (which I remember vividly, having stood in line longer than I ever had to for a film up until that time), but it seems like every time I rewatch it's still an amazing and singular experience. It's simultaneously a flawlessly-written and beautifully-scored drama, a superb character study in which even the smallest characters ring true, a breathtaking schooling in color cinematography, and overall a remarkable expression of craft and attention to detail.

I also find it poignantly evocative ... being from a New York/Italian family, I was bathed in nostalgia from the very first scenes of the warm, sun-drenched wedding which brought me back to so many similar family gatherings of my childhood, wandering around my grandmother's or great-aunt's crowded house and yard, renewing acquaintances with folks I only saw a few times a year, alternating between Italian and English without noticing, sneaking a glass of wine when my parents weren't looking.

Right from the very start "The Godfather" feels so personal that at some point I have to question just how objective I could possibly be about the rest of the film. But in speaking to others it becomes clear that part of the appeal of Coppola's masterpiece is the way he's able to create an atmosphere so rich and vivid that we all feel like part of the family, whether we're Italian or not... this is an engaging vision which flows with such ease that the 175 minute run time passes by with remarkable speed (which I found to my dismay this last viewing, when I started watching at 2am thinking, "I'll just check out the wedding scene before I go to bed").

This is a film that repeats nearly every stereotype of every gangster film going back to the 1930's and somehow recreates them in a way that makes them new and fresh, and in so doing redefines the genre. In fact, it manages to expand beyond genre, accomplishing (almost certainly without intending to) the remarkable feat of defining the art of film itself, offering a seamless and nearly flawless example of immersive storytelling. Furthermore, it's a film that has aged beautifully ... it's as powerful and captivating now as the day it was released. Finally, it doesn't leave us with too many feelings of regret when it's all over ... because we've been graced with a sequel that's probably just as good.