Yesterday afternoon, a friend asked me what is my favorite movie. “The Godfather”, I said, without hesitation. He further inquired, “Which one? 1, 2, 3?” “The first Godfather movie, the original one,” I said. He responded that he liked II (the sequel). Before needing to defend which film was better, we ended it there and avoided a potential duke out.
That same evening I turned on my TV and I found The Godfather Epic was just starting. This HBO TV version combines The Godfather and The Godfather II to tell the whole story in chronological order. Running for 424 minutes, it’s a nice solution (or resolution) for any Godfather aficionado. Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist to start watching. There’s perhaps no winning in a discussion over which is better the original or the sequel(s). (I’m a bit hardheaded.)
Over the years, various compilations of The Godfather films have been shown in theaters, on TV, via VHS and DVD, and now stream-able on nearly any online device. By HBO adding this to its lineup in 2016 says a lot about this film that had its U.S. theatrical release way back on March 24, 1972.
The Godfather is on the top of many acclaimed lists. It holds up for many reasons, some of which I will list here. The cinematography of Gordon Willis displays the story in warm tones, and with the detailed lighting of a Baroque painting. Although Nino Rota’s legacy of work includes classics created for Federico Fellini films, his score for The Godfather forever cemented his stature in American cinema. Charismatic movie gangsters beautifully lit and shot, and accompanied by an operatically lingering soundtrack makes for classic cinema. The heavy hitting acting ensemble of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall are just a few of the great actors to note. The script which was based on the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo adds a wealth of memorable dialogue and the portrait of a family we can’t forget. However, the most iconic element is Francis Ford Coppola, who assembled the Corleone saga, serving as its director, co-writer (with Mario Puzo), and immortal visionary.
The Godfather is my favorite film for many reasons. I was little when it was launched, so I didn’t see it until much later. I do remember though realizing how much my Italian-American dad loved it when he saw it back then. My dad was a San Francisco native with an Italian heritage. He was a man of integrity and total honesty. Anything he liked, I knew had to be good. As a film buff even then, I also noted the big sensation The Godfather made on the award shows. I don’t remember what year it was when I first watched it, but I was permanently struck by it. I am not now nor have I ever been a fan of crime-related films. And I’m smart enough not to take the subject of a movie too seriously – it’s all an avenue to entertainment. The crime genre was never tops for me. But as a film admirer, I can’t help but appreciate the fine details of this film that I have seen many times now. I now tend to watch my favorite parts, such as when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) hides out in Italy and is colpito da un fulmine by Apollonia (Simonetta Stefanelli) while walking on the Sicilian countryside. Also, when Marlon Brando as Don Corleone meets with the guests at his daughter’s wedding, or the bittersweet scene when he plays with his grandson in the garden.
Needless to say, I won’t be watching all 424 minutes of The Godfather Epic, not tonight (or is it morning?) anyway. And after watching about 270 minutes of it, I can still say I prefer the original, The Godfather all on it’s own. There’s no need to mess with perfection.