What comes to your mind while thinking of Godfather? Brando’s gruffly intonation or Nino Rota’s spellbinding orchestration or Gordon Willis’s magic behind the camera that redefined the possibility of chiaroscuro photography! Closer to life dialogues, complexity of relationship (something beyond the carnal) – God Father Trilogy is an epic in celluloid! Something which you can watch repetitively over a period of time.
This is something which Scorsese achieved through “lots of scarlet” where as Tarantino relied on loutish dialogues. Godfather takes you through the fine layers of the complex theme through incidents of historic importance, through the behavioural pattern of characters and finally you are brought closer to real life. It might not make you feel emotional but respect you as a third party with your own intellect. Each and every character is exposed to you as they are – It is you who should decide! This is a unique approach that was not repeated in the same fashion ever.
Godfather I, 1972 (Based on Mario Puzo’s Novel)
Don Vitto Corleone (Marlon Brando), the Sicilian who is settled in US (his younger days were vividly described in Part II) is principled and controls his mafia empire through charismatic leadership. It is his daughter Conny’s (Talia Shire, Director Francis Ford Coppola’s sister) marriage and as per Sicilian tradition, he won’t disown the request of others. Of course, he is getting capitalized by a father in agony, a struggling actor etc. His youngest son, Micheal Corleone (Al Pacino) who is not connected with family business and is proud of being a world war hero introduced his family members to his girl friend Kay Adams (Diane Keaton). His elder brothers Sonny (James Caan) who is short tempered, Fredo (John Cazale) who is a perpetual loser and Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) who is an adopted son of Vitto Corleone are introduced in the marriage ceremony.
Followed by the ceremony, Vitto Corleone’s principle regarding not engaging in drug business which is followed by bloodshed between the gangster families who were looking for gnawing the feet of each other made Michael to take charge of the family. He wanted to protect the family and finally got trapped in the claws of Mafia Kingdom. Once when your arms are crimson, it is going to be a one way route. Return is difficult.
In short, God Father I beautifully narrate the story of Michael Corleone who resemble the tragic hero of Shakespearian drama. He volunteer to take up difficult task to murder the trouble makers and flees to Sicily and got into another relation. Again, he is chased by the gangsters and finally he had to take action. He live up to the wisdom imparted by Senior Corleone “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” “Make an offer which you cannot refuse” – Wow, goose bumps!. With Vitto Corleone’s natural death, Micheal had no choice than to take charge of the family business.
Human being is the product of the situation and while you perform something, everything will come with a price. This is being beautifully portrayed in this epic saga. Marlon Brando got the academy award for best actor which he denounced for personal reasons.
Godfather II, 1974
My favourite version! It is considered as sequel and prequel of Godfather I. You have the story of Don Vitto Corleone (Robert De’ Niro) from his child hood ensemble with the current story of Micheal Corleoene (Al Pacino). Al Pacino, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall & John Cazale came back in their previous role. Again the story start with family function ; his son’s first communion. He is blessed with a son and daughter. He and members of family survives an assassination attempt which totally disrupts his family life. His wife opted for abortion as she does not want to carry offspring of a gangster. Michael was trying his level best to legalize the business but again was forced to take care of the security of family got no option that to rely on old biblical notion “blood for blood”. Again, it becomes the intelligent moves against Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) in the backdrop of Cuban Revolution.
While Vitto Corleone’s initial struggle and establishment of empire is being beautifully portrayed, it almost reveals the tragedy of Micheal. The proud world war hero became a ruthless mafia don for the sake of his family yet being deserted by his wife! Incidentally, his sister returns to him offering solace but his days are haunted by the fratricide he was forced to commit.
Robert D’Niro getting academy award for best supporting actor (and remember – all his dialogues are in Italian) was a surprise. He did wonderful jobs before and after. This part signifies the age old quote “Crime never pays” – whatever be the logic behind the same.
Godfather III, 1990
A sequel after 16 years! Still we are fortunate to have Al Pacino, Diane Keaton and Talia Shire in their respective role. Also, one of the executive producers of this movie is legendary actor Nicholas Cage ; who is the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola (Surprised? Yeah, he changed his surname so as not to capitalize uncle’s popularity). Coppola was never accused of nepotism for casting Talia Shire but in this version, he received lots of criticism for casting his daughter Sofia Coppola as Micheal’s daughter Mary Corleone. Of course, she cannot act but gave a good enough answer by directing Lost in translation.
This version completes the story of Micheal Corleone who struggle to legalize his business in the backdrop of Papal Bank scandal , murder of Pope of Vatican etc. He is haunted by the fratricide, losing his wife even though he did everything to protect them, agonized by the incestuous relation of his daughter with his nephew (Sonny’s son who takes over as next Godfather).
He is surrounded by everyone but majority of them are not mentally connected. Finally, he succumbs to a natural death like his father but by then he lost almost everyone who is near and dear to him.
Godfather remains a dazzling piece of work in celluloid with its “closer to life” narration, superlative performance by cast, intelligent but heartwarming dialogues – No wonder it is being considered by entrenched icons in the field of film as an encyclopedia of reference!
Godfather trilogy is not marooned by the lackadaisical lethargy of producer / director! Even though, I rank Part I & II to be better than Part III, you will get closer to the entire theme only if you complete watching the trilogy. It is an immaculately acted epic with a universal appeal and no wonder we have many ghosts of Godfather (Raja Ko Rani Se Pyar Hogaya – Love theme of God Father, Sarkar, Sarkar Raj —–)