The Godfather

The Godfather ★★★★★

In 1972, Francis Ford Coppola directed The Godfather, a film he co-wrote with Mario Puzo. The screenplay looks at the Italian-American mafia through the lens of the Corleone family and is based on Puzo’s best-selling novel from 1969. The Godfather gave birth to a blockbuster trilogy, won three Academy Awards and reignited Marlon Brando’s career. Furthermore, it showcased new talent, bringing a slate of fairly unknown actors to the spotlight including Al Pacino and Diane Keaton.

The story chronicles the Corleone family from 1945 to 1955. It begins with Vito Corleone (Brandon) operating as the Don in his darkened study during his daughter’s wedding day. Outside, amongst the wedding festivities, we meet one of Vito’s sons Michael (Pacino), who has returned from the marine’s to debut his non-Italian girlfriend, Kay (Keaton). This comparison between father and son, the old world family and the American dream, sets the tone of the film. Michael must decide whether he will follow his father and pursue the ‘family business’ which is a coded term amongst the mafia.

Marlo Brando and Al Pacino are deeply compelling in their roles as father and son, their portrayals command such respect it’s easy to see how they ordained this respect from the Academy. Brando sacrificed his handsome looks to be the aged Godfather, adopting a heavy jowl and husky whisper, supposedly inspired by the real-life mobster Frank Costello. Brando’s exploration of this vocal technique, an understated softness, communicated an attention-grabbing power which intensified his authority as The Godfather.

How can we not talk about the ‘Love Theme’ from The Godfather? ‘Speak Softly, Love’, remains to be one of the most memorable scores in cinema history. The decadent tune reinforces and enhances the transcending emotion of the film, humanising the characters and summoning audience tears (guilty!) This song is highly contagious, not only does it enter your mind for the next week, it will enter the mind of loved ones who hear you hum it.

It’s been nearly fifty years since the film debuted, and hear I am recording my version of ‘The Godfather Effect’. Whilst many Italian-Americans walked away from this film with a greater understanding of their backstory as a dual identity immigrant, I walked away with a reminder of how special my Polish background is due to my four grandparents who each made the three-day voyage to Australia. Is there a trilogy waiting to be told there? I can see it now “Leave the gun, take the pierogi”.

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