Celebrating 50 years of The Godfather, a piece of cinematic brilliance that still rings true to our hearts half a century after its release!
Dear Francis Ford Coppola,
I was a first-year film student when our professor told us to watch The Godfather as an assignment so that we could discuss it in class later. Personally, I didn’t know much about the movie at that point but whatever little knowledge I had, it all came from my father. He’s been a huge fan of the movie for years and had also read the book quite a few times so I decided to watch it with him to get his perspective on the storyline. Our Godfather movie night turned out to be one of my fondest memories as we discussed the direction, cinematography, lighting, and how I was head over heels in love with Al Pacino by the end of the film.
Your exceptional collaboration with Mario Puzo, as writer-director brought the 40s and 50s era of New York to life. This film gave me an insight into the Italian-American gangster families when they had the city’s control in the palm of their hands, how Don Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone Mafia family passed down his legacy of power, corruption, and violence to his youngest son, Michael Corleone who wanted to stay as far as possible from his family’s affairs but was unintentionally dragged into the dirty politics.
I still believe one of the best things that this movie introduced to the world is Al Pacino. A fresh new face who was just three films old back then, took the world by surprise with his portrayal of Michael Corleone. From being the youngest sibling to the head of the family, you made me root for Michael’s character arc because who doesn’t love an underdog story, right?
Marlon Brando as Don Corleone instilled fear in many even as a fictional character. You just look at him and know that he’s not somebody you should mess with. The army of unforgettable supporting characters in the film like Sonny Corleone, Don Corleone’s eldest son whose temper proved to be his biggest enemy in the end, Tom Hagen, the consigliere and the right-hand man of the Don, Peter Clemenza, and Salvatore Tessio, the duo who actually did all the bloodletting of the enemies of the family and of course I’m going to make a very special mention, Luca Brasi, because I was shocked to know that before this film he actually worked as a hitman for a real Mafia family. I mean, you really went all out for the casting of this film.
I’m definitely not going to forget the strong female characters in the movie, Sonnie Corleone played by Talia Shire and Kay Adams played by Diane Keaton. The two women wrapped in the world of guns dominated by men all around them knew exactly how to hit the weak spot and bring even the most feared Don in the city down to his knees. With great power comes great responsibility…and in this case, also a great danger as there was more than one antagonist in the film whose desperate desire to see the Corleone family demolished and uprooted scared me till the end.
I still remember this one scene vividly where Vito Corleone goes to Bonasera‘s funeral parlor to see Sonny Corleone’s dead body for the first time. The lighting is placed in such a manner that except for Vito Corleone, the rest of the frame is pitch black which metaphorically speaks about how dark his life is about to become. That’s the level of sheer attention to storytelling this film offers its audience. The overall color palette of the film had soft tones of orange which made me drawn to the screen like I am one of the family members in the room discussing the next plot.
I haven’t seen more cultural references and quotable dialogues (In the Italian-American accent of course) than in any other movie in the last half-century. “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”, “Take the gun, leave the Cannoli”, “Don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever” “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes”. They aren’t just dialogues, they’re life advice preserved by generations of families after watching your movie.
Some movies leave behind background scores that leave an imprint on our minds for a lifetime and I feel extremely elated and nostalgic each time I listen to the title track of this film. It brings out aspects of the story that lie beneath the surface and the emotional pull the characters give us. The smooth cinematographic transition from New York to Sicily capturing some of the picturesque scenes of the two main hubs of the Italian mafia makes the movie look larger than life.
At the end of the day, I feel the movie still resonates with its audience no matter which year they were born because family is the most important thing in the world. Even if you’re the deadliest Don ever, family comes first and that’s something all of us relate to.
Thank you for giving the world its ultimate source of inspiration for all the gangster movies that followed after this. A true-crime drama with a dash of Italian culture became a cult classic that my dad and I will never get tired of watching over and over again.
With utmost love and admiration,
A partisan of the Corleone family.
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