Monday, June 29, 2009
"Leave the gun. Grab the canoli."
I figured, a while ago, that it was high time I eliminated a particularly large gap in my movie watching career. I've long indicated that stories about the Mob and organized crime in general aren't my cup of tea, to the point where I refuse to see Goodfellas as the rightful Best Picture of 1990. Sorry, Scorsese fans, but I will always love Dances With Wolves more. But, while I have little interest in watching stuff like The Sopranos, I decided that I should at least venture to see the most celebrated film ever made in this genre. So it was that I watched The Godfather, at long last.
Now, I've seen bits and pieces of The Godfather over the years, many and many of the bits and pieces. It turned out that when all those bits and pieces were added up, I had, in fact, seen most of the movie's important parts; the overall plot came as no surprise to me at all, except in a few spots where I finally got to put together the story mechanics behind some very famous scenes. I wasn't going into the movie with any kind of chip on my shoulder, mind you; I expected The Godfather to be a very good movie. But wow, what a movie. That's about all I have to say about it, really, in terms of overall appraisal. The Godfather is just an awfully good film. So, some random observations:
:: You know you're watching a special movie when you're unaware, or only occasionally aware, of the passage of time. The opening scene, at the wedding of Don Corleone's daughter, seems over pretty quickly, and yet it's about half an hour long. And yet, look how much of the movie is set up in that scene! It's really pretty amazing. Virtually everything is foreshadowed in that half an hour, and it's foreshadowed so artfully that we don't even realize we're being foreshadowed, most of the time. (And when we do realize it, the eventual payoff – such as the "service" that Bonaserra is eventually called upon to perform – is surprising in itself.)
:: Passage of time in the movie itself, within the story, is hard to get a handle on, and it seems as though the events of the Corleone family and their enemies don't occupy any real relationship to the world around them. It is unclear as to how many years go by in the course of the film; Michael Corleone is back from Sicily for a minute or two of film time and it turns out that a year has gone by. Don Corleone himself goes from elder with lots of vitality to ancient patriarch before our eyes.
:: The passage of time thing brings up a larger point, that the world the film depicts – the world of the Sicilian mob in New York – is a totally insular one, isn't it? There's almost no depiction of any connection to the doings of the outside world, except as they relate to the criminal activities of the Corleones. It's also interesting to see that law enforcement plays almost no role in this movie. There's a dirty cop who isn't around very long, and during the wedding that opens the film some FBI agents are taking down the license plate numbers of those in attendance, but that's about it, isn't it?
:: I wish I hadn't known about the decapitation of the race horse before it happened; I'll bet that was a shocking moment to audiences back when this film came out. Instead, I'm kind of saying to myself: "Hey! That's the horse whose head gets chopped off to make a point to this arrogant prick!"
:: It's interesting to me that "Luca Brasi" has become a pretty well-known character name in pop culture these days, for a character in a three-hour movie who has very little actual screen time. Luca Brasi isn't around very much at all, is he?
:: The only part of the movie that lagged, in terms of pacing, was the part set in Sicily. It just wasn't terribly interesting, although it did establish the root of Michael Corleone's later ruthlessness.
:: My favorite line of dialogue in the movie is "Leave the gun. Grab the canoli."
I will watch the sequels at some point.