The Godfather Thread

..and why not?
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Davey the Fat Boy
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The Godfather Thread

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 02 Feb 2007, 08:00

I believe in America.

America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom, but -- I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a boyfriend; not an Italian. She went to the movies with him; she stayed out late. I didn't protest. Two months ago, he took her for a drive, with another boyfriend. They made
her drink whiskey. And then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her, like an animal. When I went to the hospital, her nose was a'broken. Her jaw was a'shattered, held together by wire. She couldn't even weep because of the pain.
But I wept. Why did I weep? She was the light of my life -- beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again.

Sorry...

I -- I went to the police, like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison -- suspended sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool. And those two bastard, they smiled at me. Then I said to my wife, "for justice, we must go to Don Corleone."


Thus begins what is arguably among the greatest American films ever. Has any film ever laid out it's main themes so quickly and with such poetry and precision?

Here's a thread for anyone else obsessed with the Corleone family.

I'll start it off with the question I can never stop asking myself:

Vito Corleone was feared but loved. Michael Corleone was hated. Why?
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Re: The Godfather Thread

Postby The Write Profile » 02 Feb 2007, 08:10

davey the fat boy wrote:.

I'll start it off with the question I can never stop asking myself:

Vito Corleone was feared but loved. Michael Corleone was hated. Why?


Good question, I'll give it a shot, though I might have to pull out the magnificent full boxset this weekend.

Anyway, it's difficult to answer this authoratively, but I think it might have something to do with Michael Corleone's supreme ruthlessness and, ultimately, emotional coldness. You see it even at the end of the very first film when the doors shut and Kay looks through, by the time you reach Godfather, Pt II's conclusion, he's nothing but a shell. Think of the extent he's prepared to not only hold onto what his father bequeathed him, but expand upon it. I suppose it's the fact Vito built up his power from the ground (well, first by killing that guy).

But this is a very sketchy answer, I need to watch the first two films again.
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Postby Jeemo » 02 Feb 2007, 08:37

Michael has no heart to balance his actions. Vito looked after the local people, Michael ignored the problems that Frankie P and Willie Chi Chi were having in Godfather ll because it didnt tie in with his plans.

In fact Michael was a sell out to money and power. Although in 3 he did try to redeem himself
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Postby Tactful Cactus » 02 Feb 2007, 10:23

They're alright. First one drags a bit but its got some good moments.
I prefer the second one out of the three. Pacino's excellent, he doesn't have to say a word.

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Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 02 Feb 2007, 12:51

Jeemo wrote:Michael has no heart to balance his actions. Vito looked after the local people, Michael ignored the problems that Frankie P and Willie Chi Chi were having in Godfather ll because it didnt tie in with his plans.

In fact Michael was a sell out to money and power. Although in 3 he did try to redeem himself


Hmmm... I imagine Vito could be pretty ruthless to get where he was. He advises Michael to do much of what happens. Besides - I think Michael has heart in his way. He is always motivated by the desire to protect those he loves and cleanse the family name. On the other hand, both you and the RGP made a similar observation about Vito helping the local people (or 'building his empire from the ground up") - this seems important. Vito built up a profound resevoir of loyalty around himself. He was part of a community. Michael was profoundly isolated.

In the opening scene, just after the monologue above - Vito refuses to take money from the guy. All he asks is friendship and the promise of a service he may never even collect on. Vito may have been a crook, but he likely stole from everyone but his community. He lived the ethos of "don't shit where you eat." Michael wasn't even part of his community. Just as most of us don't know our neighbors any more.

I'm not sure that "community" provides the entire answer, but it seems to be a huge part of it. The natural question that follows is: Could Michael have done things any different and survived, or was he forced into his isolation?
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Postby James R » 02 Feb 2007, 13:53

Tactful Cactus wrote:First one drags a bit


Not half as much as what part II does for me. By insisting part II be half an hour longer again than the already pretty long first film, Coppola diffused it too much. He could just about justify part I being nearly three hours; he couldn't justify part II being nearly three and a half.
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Postby Tactful Cactus » 02 Feb 2007, 15:46

James R wrote:
Tactful Cactus wrote:First one drags a bit


Not half as much as what part II does for me. By insisting part II be half an hour longer again than the already pretty long first film, Coppola diffused it too much. He could just about justify part I being nearly three hours; he couldn't justify part II being nearly three and a half.


Part II never felt as drawn out to me as the first one. Maybe because of the dual storylines during the first half.

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Postby Matt Wilson » 02 Feb 2007, 16:21

This is actually the first time I've ever read someone say either part one or two was too long.
Further consolidating my belief that the international attention span is getting lower all the time...
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Postby king feeb » 02 Feb 2007, 16:33

Matt Wilson wrote:This is actually the first time I've ever read someone say either part one or two was too long.
Further consolidating my belief that the international attention span is getting lower all the time...


I was surprised to read this too. They're long films, but I can't think of a single scene I would cut or edit.


Back to Davy's point, I think the ascension of Michael to Vito's throne is also a terrific parable about the old ways (represented by Vito) being usurped by the less personal and, perhaps, more viciously-efficient modern world (the colder, more business-like Michael). The fact that Michael ends up a ruthless empty shell of a man seems to be one of Coppola's (and Mario Puzo's) main points.
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Postby Matt Wilson » 02 Feb 2007, 16:48

king feeb wrote:
Matt Wilson wrote:This is actually the first time I've ever read someone say either part one or two was too long.
Further consolidating my belief that the international attention span is getting lower all the time...


I was surprised to read this too. They're long films, but I can't think of a single scene I would cut or edit.


Back to Davy's point, I think the ascension of Michael to Vito's throne is also a terrific parable about the old ways (represented by Vito) being usurped by the less personal and, perhaps, more viciously-efficient modern world (the colder, more business-like Michael). The fact that Michael ends up a ruthless empty shell of a man seems to be one of Coppola's (and Mario Puzo's) main points.


Of course it's one of the main points. And that the ruthless quality of Vito was manifested in his son but with even more to build on so that Michael's empire included Nevada and later on--the Vatican. Both men were damned but Michael more so (his sins were greater).

The message is basic, almost biblical if you want to look at it that way: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We've all heard it a million times. The strength lies in its presentation. Never had the underworld goings on of a crime family been presented in epic terms, almost operatic in its use of emotion and audience empathy with the main characters. The story/film was presented as grand Hollywood spectacle, not the B-movie sideline that '40s/'50s film noir had been. We were meant to think that this was important, and it was.


EDIT: Has anyone ever noticed that the actor who plays the bodyguard "Al Neri" (I think he's in all three films) is also with Pacino in the earlier Panic in Needle Park? He has a much bigger role as Al's brother and he speaks with a thick, New Yawk accent. I wonder if Pacino was instrumental in getting that guy the (non-speaking) reoccuring role in the Godfathers.
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Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 02 Feb 2007, 17:09

Matt Wilson wrote:
king feeb wrote:
Matt Wilson wrote:This is actually the first time I've ever read someone say either part one or two was too long.
Further consolidating my belief that the international attention span is getting lower all the time...


I was surprised to read this too. They're long films, but I can't think of a single scene I would cut or edit.


Back to Davy's point, I think the ascension of Michael to Vito's throne is also a terrific parable about the old ways (represented by Vito) being usurped by the less personal and, perhaps, more viciously-efficient modern world (the colder, more business-like Michael). The fact that Michael ends up a ruthless empty shell of a man seems to be one of Coppola's (and Mario Puzo's) main points.


Of course it's one of the main points. And that the ruthless quality of Vito was manifested in his son but with even more to build on so that Michael's empire included Nevada and later on--the Vatican. Both men were damned but Michael more so (his sins were greater).

The message is basic, almost biblical if you want to look at it that way: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We've all heard it a million times. The strength lies in its presentation. Never had the underworld goings on of a crime family been presented in epic terms, almost operatic in its use of emotion and audience empathy with the main characters. The story/film was presented as grand Hollywood spectacle, not the B-movie sideline that '40s/'50s film noir had been. We were meant to think that this was important, and it was.


It is biblical. In fact I think it is a mistake to think of it as a gangster film. The film is about America. The first line is "I believe in America" and within it's first minute it is established that meaningful justice has always been in question here. The great dialogue exchange between Michael and Kay below illustrates the point perfectly:

MICHAEL

My father's no different than any other powerful man --

(Kay laughs)

-- Any man who's responsible for other people. Like a senator or a president.

KAY

You know how naive you sound?

MICHAEL

Why?


KAY

Senators and presidents don't have men killed...


MICHAEL

Oh -- who's being naïve, Kay?


To my mind, Michael's isolation is a pretty good metaphor for what became of America in general. His family built up success by earning the loyalty of their community, but at a certain point the community stopped mattering. It probably barely existed anymore as people moved to the suburbs, stopped using public transportation, and became more and more fragmented. After that the only thing that mattered anymore was "the family" or "corporation." It's a colder world all around now that we don't know our neighbors, or even live in the same state as much of our family. We're all isolated and alone now - just like Michael. And we're all engaged in a version of the kind of impersonal struggle to survive that he is trapped in. I imagine in our own little ways we all even have a Fredo or two in our own family - somebody who has crossed some line and earns our wrath in one way or another.

You are absolutely right Matt. It's biblical as hell.
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Postby Count Machuki » 02 Feb 2007, 17:24

The Godfather isn't too far from a Bildungsroman.
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Postby toomanyhatz » 02 Feb 2007, 18:13

Biblical as hell indeed. Brought home by the fact that the turning point near the end of one happens in church at the christening. You can see the moment where Michael gets the answer to the question that plagues him up until then- can he stand before God and justify his actions? Do what has to be done even if people he loves get caught in the crossfire? Compartmentalize his life to where he can be one kind of man to one family and another to another? It's played so brilliantly by Pacino that you can almost see the very moment where it occurs to him that the answer to the question is indeed "yes." And there's the isolation that has been spoken of- inevitable, and, in Michael's mind, something to be worn as a badge of honor. It's the "no turning back" point.

Perhaps what makes him so frightening (and hated) is the fact that he does indeed have tenderness in him, but can detach himself from it when he needs to. That sense of ruthlessness that RGP mentioned can take over at any time.

I'm anxious to see #2.
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Postby nathan » 02 Feb 2007, 18:27

toomanyhatz wrote:Biblical as hell indeed.

Maybe this is why I didn't like these movies. Or maybe it's all the masculine egos driving their stupid delusions of grandeur and importance that made me hope they all died a silly and ironic (and somewhat brutal) death. That didn't happen as much as I had hoped.

And I can't remember but did they ever explain why Marlon Brando talks like he does in this movie?

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Postby Matt Wilson » 02 Feb 2007, 18:49

nathan wrote:
toomanyhatz wrote:Biblical as hell indeed.

Maybe this is why I didn't like these movies. Or maybe it's all the masculine egos driving their stupid delusions of grandeur and importance that made me hope they all died a silly and ironic (and somewhat brutal) death. That didn't happen as much as I had hoped.

And I can't remember but did they ever explain why Marlon Brando talks like he does in this movie?


A lot of old Italian guys talk like that--it's not just a movie thing.
Brando was amazing in that role. Your eyes are on him every second he's on screen. No matter who is up there with him you're watching Brando.
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Postby nathan » 02 Feb 2007, 19:18

Matt Wilson wrote:Brando was amazing in that role. Your eyes are on him every second he's on screen. No matter who is up there with him you're watching Brando.

Yeah, he was pretty captivating, I can't deny that.

There were bits and pieces I liked about these first two (never bothered with the third) but as a whole I just was bored to tears. I usually need a good female protagonist to offset such a massive amount of male ego in order for me to even give a shit. But the usually flawless Diane Keaton was given a pretty thankless role that didn't really have any sort of dynamic. Just basically love Michael and then scream and shout when he was being a douchebag, which seemed to be most of the time.

To be quite honest, I have never understood the level of adoration these films have achieved. Surely the themes addressed are pretty basic as far as morality and redemption tales go. Is it a male fantasy to have as much power as these guys? Is it the respect issue? Is Michael Corleone perceived as some sort of superhero? I don't get it.

Technically they are pretty well made films though. A bit goopy at times with all the soft lensing and shit. And what's with all the godamn sepia in the second. OI!

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Postby Matt Wilson » 02 Feb 2007, 19:39

nathan wrote:
Matt Wilson wrote:Brando was amazing in that role. Your eyes are on him every second he's on screen. No matter who is up there with him you're watching Brando.

Yeah, he was pretty captivating, I can't deny that.

There were bits and pieces I liked about these first two (never bothered with the third) but as a whole I just was bored to tears. I usually need a good female protagonist to offset such a massive amount of male ego in order for me to even give a shit. But the usually flawless Diane Keaton was given a pretty thankless role that didn't really have any sort of dynamic. Just basically love Michael and then scream and shout when he was being a douchebag, which seemed to be most of the time.

To be quite honest, I have never understood the level of adoration these films have achieved. Surely the themes addressed are pretty basic as far as morality and redemption tales go. Is it a male fantasy to have as much power as these guys? Is it the respect issue? Is Michael Corleone perceived as some sort of superhero? I don't get it.

Technically they are pretty well made films though. A bit goopy at times with all the soft lensing and shit. And what's with all the godamn sepia in the second. OI!


Your accusation of a lack of a strong female is beside the point. It's a male-driven story. If you hold the lack of female characters thing against it then you're going to have a problem with a lot of art--not just films but novels, paintings, etc.

When you watch a movie like Steel Magnolias do you bemoan the lack of a strong male lead? How about certain Bible stories? The list could go on and on...

Just chalk it up to something you don't like along with The Yardbirds, Nathan...
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Postby LeBaron » 02 Feb 2007, 19:42

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Postby Sneelock » 02 Feb 2007, 19:45

great thread!
Vito Corleone was feared but loved. Michael Corleone was hated. Why?


respect. vito was worthy of respect and Michael wasn't.

davey the fat boy wrote: Could Michael have done things any different and survived, or was he forced into his isolation?


I think michael was doomed. he enters into the family business for the right reasons - responibility etc.. speaking as someone who's only watched part three while laughing derisively and rolling my eyes, his job has changed. michael's business decisions were the right business decisions, they were not honorable decisions.

I think the two godfather films are like Grand Illusion. war is bad and crime is bad. in the reality of these films, people can engage in war and crime and still be "respectable people". not in the world michael finds himself in.

my turn: how would Vito or Sonny have dealt with Fredo? the same as michael or differently?

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Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 02 Feb 2007, 19:51

Sneelock wrote:my turn: how would Vito or Sonny have dealt with Fredo? the same as michael or differently?


What a great question.

Of course we have no way of knowing, but I am positive Vito doesn't do the same as Michael, and I strongly suspect Sonny wouldn't have either.
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