Saturday, July 26, 2008

Film criticism, sent to die, and an attempt at rescue

It's been said that the message boards at IMDB are where film criticism goes to die—and it’s largely true—but I think this little comment I left for some guy who “didn’t get” The Godfather is not so bad; and maybe, just maybe, this dude who insists that “Star Wars, Die Hard, Fight Club and Rocky are great movies,” will have a change of heart. I dashed it off at about 2 a.m. Sober, even!

"It wasn't until the third time I watched The Godfather that I finally, really and truly, got it. It touches on major themes that Americans love: that lowly immigrants can rise up and become powerful; they can stand up for their families and defend them the way they choose; they revere honor and duty and loyalty. But in the end, it's a complete scam. Oh, bitter irony! It's also about fathers and sons, and the expectations they have of one another--how can one not be touched, watching poor hapless Fredo weep in the gutter next to his father's bullet-riddled body?

"I love the little detailed moments: how upset Brando is when he's home from the hospital and Sonny and Tom are afraid to tell him what happened to Michael; the way the camera imperceptibly moves toward Michael as he tells the guys what his plan is for Barzini and MacLuskie; the tension that builds when he's in the men's room looking for the gun as the train roars outside; the banter between Tom and the producer Woltz ("Let me tell you something, my Kraut-Mick friend"); the way Sonny bites his hand when he finds out Carlo is beating up Connie; Appolonia's gorgeous breasts; the black humor of the assassins: "Leave the gun... take the cannoli." And the entire wedding scene that opens the movie, and how innocent and above it all Michael seems when he's with Kay... and how he too will soon be as rotten as the rest of the family, giving lie to his words: "That's my family, Kay, that's not me."

"I love the stately manner of the burnished color scheme, the browns and yellows, the darkened rooms, hinting at behind-the-scenes machinations; the mournful Godfather theme song that weaves its way throughout the picture; the editing that reveals Don Corleone's visage behind every act of criminality (the slow fade-in to his implacable face as Woltz's screams from his bed fade away). Everything is in its right place, logical, precise, yet not overbearing or obvious.

"No, I didn't get this all on first, or second viewing. I've seen the movie a dozen times and each time something different pops out at me, something that was always there, something rich and true about not just gangsters' lives, but about people, families, lovers, enemies. And that final scene, showing Michael shutting off his heart forever, betraying the man he once was--as Moe Syzlack put it, 'And then Michael closes the door on Annie Hall.'

"But then, that's just my .02 on one of the greatest movies ever made."

Think it'll work? You're right--naaaah.

3 comments:

Suggadelic said...

I think it's about time for me to bust this one out again. For years I was more of a Godfather II enthusiast because I was so blown away by DeNiro's performance. But there is certainly no denying all the power of the first one.

I dug reading the details you pointed out from the wedding scene. I also thought it was really telling of Sonny's character when he fucked that bridesmaid. He was a hothead, but he definitely enjoyed the "freedom" that came with his lifestyle.

Dan E said...

Well, if Michael Corleone had gotten to fly the Millennium Falcon, THEN we might be talking about a classic film...

In all seriousness, Will, you make some excellent points. Have you (or Mr. Sugg) read Puzo's Godfather book? It's actually a great read, and it illuminates a lot of things that are just glossed over (or not even mentioned) in the movies -- including the fact that Sonny was boning other chicks partly because his wife couldn't handle the size of his cannoli...

Suggadelic said...

Haha... That's a great Sonny detail, Dan. I guess I do need to read that book!