A movie fan from an early age, I have seen some great films.
But it was The Godfather (1972) that had me totally head over heals in love with the art of moviemaking.
I learned to look at another individual’s life – a life divergent of my own – through the eyes of someone totally different, the director, and then make my own judgment of its value.
I learned that a great leading man could make the movie, and life, much more interesting.
The Godfather blends many stories into one multi-layered epic. Family responsibility, love, betrayal, a father’s legacy, the need for respect and the corruption that comes when a man thirsts for more power, more money, more, well, just more.
• It also gave us a movie genre by which all future movies would be judged.
• One of the greatest movie lines ever, Don Vito’s “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse”.
• Sweeping soundtracks.
• A collective cultural memory.
Mario Puzo’s novel is about families and the individuals and drama within them. It is about feeling forced to not follow your dreams in order to live up to the families’ expectations.
It’s about guys – tough guys — who find them selves in position that make them want to cry, but can’t.
It’s about power and morality in America – circa 1940 and 2008.
It’s about the women who watch, silently, as their emotional worlds whirl around them, yet they are powerless to make change. Because you just can’t change another person.
Puzzo’s novel is about how we, as individuals, can only make decisions for ourselves.
It is the story of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino).
What is interesting is that each Godfather plot point could be the basis for a movie on its own. Director Francis Ford Coppola wove all those plots into one cohesive thread that he maintained over three films spanning seventeen year.
To bring them together without overburdening the viewer was artful. The movies were collectively nominated for twenty-eight Academy Awards, winning nine including two best-picture Oscars for The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. All for a film that Coppola did not want to do, for a studio that did not want the film done.
All that adoration aside, I have not entirely watched the Godfather since those early days. I tried. I popped in the disappointing discs that somehow lacked the brilliance I remembered from those nascent years.
But now it is time to gather the girlfriends and once again watch the powerful Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, and James Caan, as the impulsive, and hot-tempered Santino “Sonny” Corleon.
Lest we forgert, there is the reluctant Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) who finds that the family business will overcomes his desire for a “normal life,” but never really destroy the core of who he is.
The role of Michael Corleone is rated as the eight greatest movie characters of all time (Total Film Magazine) and the 11th most iconic villain in film history (The American Film Institute).
With the release of The Godfather, The Coppola Restoration movie viewers will once again watch Michael return from Italy a very changed man ready to take helm of the family business. There is joy in watching a very young Al Pacino, pre Serpico and rather restrained, on the same screen as Marlon Brando, and James Caan.
Then there is the Godfather II, and we can hold our collective breath as once again, Michael Corleone keeps the family in the business, In this film, the players in Michael’s life all vie for the position that will lead to the greatest gain.
Here the story becomes Michael Corleone’s as Don Corleone, Godfather in his own right, and how cruel family can be to one another. Particularly when big brother has a team of assassins at his command.
Then there is The Godfather III and if we have not quite gotten the idea yet, we now know that The Godfather is the story of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and how the family business has affected his life and his family.
In this film, Michael is approaching 60, an age that is reminiscent of the age of his father, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) in the first film.
This time it is Don Corleone’s nephew, Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), Sonny (who was murdered in movie one) and Lucy Mancini’s illegitimate son, that battles for control of the family business.
Vincent is another iconic bad boy and he combines his grandfather and uncles’ better attributes to become a ruthless, cunning crime boss.
If we remember, Michaels goals where to not be a part of the family business, and now as he looks back at his life, guilt for his ruthless ambition as Don Corleone, head of the Italian Mafia, begins.
The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Giftset (Paramount Home Entertainment- $69.99 to $62.99 for DVD, $124.99 to $61.95 for Blu-ray) was released this week as a five-disc collection (DVD), four-disc collection (Blu-ray) of the three films along with bonus features.
The first two films were, frame-by-frame, digitally stored under the guidance of director Francis Ford Coppola while The Godfather Part III was digitally remastered.
There are many hours of bonus features that provide an “insiders view” of the movies and the process – from scriptwriting to final editing – of making the film.
Interesting to watch is “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t.” This feature delves into the events and allegiances that married the then unknown director Francis Ford Coppola with what is termed the “unwanted cast.”
However how someone could not want Pacino, Brando and James Caan, our leading men in the original film, I cannot imagine anymore than I can imagine the landscape of film had this epic not been made in 1972.
Equally interesting is “Godfather World” that looks at the movies influence on popular culture and movie making today.
Director Coppola provides a commentary to each film that provides additional insight and insider information on the films.
All in all, and I can’t help but say it, for fans of film, filmmaking and great leading men, this is an offer you can’t refuse!