I am too young to know or truly understand the phenomenon Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather created upon its initial release. I’ve also grown up in the post-Godfather world, which set the tone for almost every gangster and crime films since. Even still, I fully believe in the brilliance of the film as one of the greatest ever. Coppola offers a rich and layered look at family and does so with an incredible cast and a meticulous amount of detail.
Despite their suspect background and influence and power in New York’s world of organized crime, the Corleone clan holds their familial bond as their most important asset. Perhaps the best known story of the family bond is the biblical parable of the prodigal son who returns home after being away for a long time. In leaving the son creates a disconnect from his family’s bond, but the moment he returns, the power of father and son heals everything instantly. Based on the novel by Mario Puzo, The Godfather is a modern retelling of the parable, only done so in reverse.
The prodigal son is Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). Rather than being the hedonistic son depicted in the Biblical parable, Michael is a responsible and noble member of the American military. Michael fully understands his family and never speaks down to it, but he’s put some distance between himself and the underground world he was raised in. Michael is introduced at the start of the film as a guest at his sister’s wedding. While everyone else is dressed in their best suits and dresses, the youngest son arrives in his military garb setting himself apart from the rest of the extended family. He’s an outsider who has to explain himself to his girlfriend Kay (Diane Keaton) and why he stands out. They stick to themselves for a while, trying in futility to blend in. It’s not long before Michael’s arrival is noticed by others and he’s called upon to reunite with his parents and siblings. In some ways the excitement of Michael’s homecoming overshadows his sister’s big day.
Michael leaves a short time later but is forced to return after his father nearly dies. Michael comes to the aid of the Corleones and he fully embraces his family’s criminal ties. So begins Michael’s descent from American hero to major player in organized crime. But the trade-off isn’t all black and white. Although a criminal, Michael is also closer to his family than ever.
This is really just one of the several rich stories told within the context of this one sweeping epic. As the members of the Corleone family interact with one another, their stories are told. It’s one of few films that I’ve seen where you’re able to see each character develop and have a purpose. The writing is tight and not a moment is wasted.
Celebrations and gatherings play a major role in The Godfather. This allows lots of characters to be shown at once, but more importantly they demonstrate the importance of family. They’re always together, whether it’s for a party, special occasion or just for a nice meal. But given the family’s background, it’s also a smokescreen for the wrong they commit. So are the Corleone’s good or are they bad? It all depends on what lens you look through. From a valiant perspective where the law is gospel, then they’re all a bunch of hoods and murderers. But to each other the Corleones are a family and they’ll do anything for one another, no matter the personal cost. That’s the lens Coppola uses as he constructs this masterful work of character and epic storytelling.
The Godfather DVD Review
When you’re one of the greatest films of all-time then you deserve only the best. Despite having a solid (and originally pricey) release as a boxed set a few years ago, Francis Ford Coppola wanted to make things better. Now he proudly presents “The Coppola Restoration” box set in which both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II have both undergone meticulous restorations.
The Godfather has been cleaned up and looks cleaner and sharper than I’ve ever seen it on both the previous VHS and DVD copies I’ve owned. It also has a new Dolby 5.1 Surround audio track as well as a 5.1 French track and an English mono track. Subtitles are offered in English, French and Spanish. Francis Ford Coppola offers up a very informative and far-reaching commentary track that not only offers up how the film came to be, but insights into his own work and struggles.
The remaining bonus features are bundled together on not one but two bonus discs. One disc contains features that were all released with the last DVD box set a few years ago. Nine featurettes make up a deep and rounded look at the making of the film. Everything from writing to cinematography to music to sets are covered. Additional features include deleted scenes, a Corleone family tree that connects many of the characters, an image gallery and short written biographies for major crew members.
New bonus features continue to amaze in the number of angles extras can be taken. “Godfather World” looks at the impact The Godfather franchise has had on pop culture and makes connections to both The Sopranos, South Park and The Simpsons, amongst others. “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t” tracks how Hollywood, amidst a tremendous change away from the studio system, nearly led to The Godfather not being made. Not only is it another look at the film, but it’s also an interesting and revealing piece on Hollywood history. “…when the shooting stopped” explores the post production and the conflict over the control. “Emulsion Rescue: Revealing The Godfather” talks about the restoration process the film underwent for this release. For some reason, stars who just happened to be at the premiere of Cloverfield comment on what they think of The Godfather in “The Godfather on the Red Carpet.” That’s synergy for you. And it’s really feels out of place here. Under the title “Four Short Films on The Godfather” there’s a hodgepodge of additional extras. The first, “The Godfather vs. The Godfather Part II” has critics and stars debate their favourite of the two films. The remaining shorts put the spotlight on random quotes, cannoli and the fate of Clemenza. All of the new features can be subtitled in English, French or Spanish.
It’s not really a big deal, but still something worth noting. The bonus discs were mislabeled in the set I received. It’s nothing huge, just discs four and five having the wrong titles on the disc. I’m not sure if this was an error with all of the sets or if it’s going to be corrected.
The Godfather Gallery