Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Godfather - SCAN Article

Living in a Cave - The Godfather

There are classic quotes that everyone knows: "Here's Johnny", "I'll never let go, Jack", "Bring on the wall"... but a lot of the time, I find myself quoting things without having actually seen the source material. The Godfather (1972) is one of the most quoted films in history, with classic lines like "My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse" and even though for years I'd been telling everyone that it was one of my favourite films, I'd never actually got around to watching it. (I bet I'm not the only one...)

People would ask me, "Do you like the bit when Marlon Brando does that thing?", "Oh, that's definitely one of the best bits," I'd reply, "in fact it's just a really good film in general." Then I'd go quiet and hope there weren't going to be any follow-up questions that might catch me out.

So, last week, after only thirty-eight years since it was released, I sat down to watch the film for the first time. There were a couple of technical hitches that might have affected my viewing pleasure; I'd fiddled with the subtitles (I do that a lot, I find that a lot of actors mumble far too much) and somehow managed to turn them off entirely, even for the painfully prolonged scenes in which only Italian is spoken. It turns out that these parts in Italian are pretty crucial, so I watched baffled as seemingly key plot points flew past, and I began to think that Francis Ford Coppola might have gone a bit potty while he was filming. It was only later on that I discovered it wasn't some kind of avant-garde filmmaking technique, and it was actually just thanks to me not being able to work my own DVD player. Without subtitles or at least a basic grasp of Italian, the film is particularly disappointing; but with subtitles, it's really rather good.

Marlon Brando gives a cult-classic performance as the ageing head of the Corleone crime family, his chin jutting out majestically from the rest of his body, giving his voice the raspy, locked -jaw effect of someone with a sore throat, trapped in a neck-brace. I can't help thinking that if the Corleone family were as close as they made out, they'd at least offer their old Pa some warm Ribena or something. But then again, they're not particularly close, and the film shows the struggles faced when running a Mafia crime family; the ups, the downs, the relationships and the attempted murders. What makes it so much fun is seeing a young Al Pacino turn from an innocent passive member of the family, into a killer, and ultimately, head of the Corleones.

The fact that The Godfather is nearly four decades old doesn't make it any less fun; the setting is authentic, the violence bloody and the cast are surprisingly recognisable, and even though I spent the first two hours telling myself that it definitely wasn't Al Pacino in the lead role, it turns out it was, and he's joined by Brando, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton. Good cast, good dialogue, good film. And at least I've seen it now, so I can quote with confidence. (Except the Italian bits; babada-boopie?)

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