Godfather part one
Review has spoilers
Godfather---I have read the novel several times many years ago , and the characters have been etched in my mind since then . The Godfather himself , his hot headed son Santino/Sonny and his mistress , his younger son Michael and his first wife Apollonia and his second and far more important wife Kay , the family advisor Tom Hagen who fails to advise properly , the heads of the family battalions Clemenza and Tessio , Rival dons Barzini and Tattaglia , and above all singer Johnny Fontane ( who was surely based on Frank Sinatra ) ; I have digested and consumed these characters in my mind during the period I read the novel again and again in my bid to analyse them , and then I forgot or rather tried to forget them when I moved on to other things in life . Compared to the times I read the novel I have seen the movie fewer times...only about three times I guess . Today was the third time . The last time I saw it , it was years ago and I wasn't reviewing films . Next time I see the movie might be years down the line , and I don't know if I would be reviewing films at that time at all....it's a now or never time to review the movie....no my review is not important , it's the movie that is important....
Out of the movies based on the three novels ( Exodus , Carpetbaggers and Godfather ) that have impacted my mind enough to read them again and again , Godfather does the best justice to the novel it was based on . Exodus movie makers had to leave many events in the novel out of the movie , but director Francis Ford Coppola has managed to pack many of the events in the Godfather novel into his movie . And he has packed them in such a way that the movie is as great as the novel itself . And inspite of the limited time that a movie gives , he has managed to build every character well . Of course , he has been backed by top class acting by his lead actors . Also backed by fabulous music as background score .
The colours of the movie have a brownish hue about them , and the theme is dark---the life and happenings of a mafia family over a period of time when they lose their might and how the eventual heir manages to recoup that might . But the recoupment comes at a terrible price at the end ; the heir loses the trust of his wife in the climax scene . This is important however only to people like me who consider women's opinion important ; in the world of gangsters the opinion of women is not so important really . It's a man's world of guns and knives .
Yeah , they are gangsters really . But seeing the movie ( and also while reading the novel ) one might feel that it is the history of the ups and downs of some empire that is being recorded . The mafia head honcho is not just head he is a combination of God and father . People come to pay homage to him and kiss his hand as if he is some emperor . The people who are under his protection are never denied any demand they make . Singer Johnny Fontane asks for role in a movie and the movie's producer ( who refuses to entertain the Godfather's proposal ) gets to see his favourite horse's beheaded head on his bed the next day....no one can refuse the Godfather .
But even an emperor has powerful enemies , and so does the Godfather . At first the enemies try to co opt him into their narcotics business , but he is a man of principles that are not seen outside the movies ; he refuses to enter such a dirty business . Result---his attempted murder . For the money in narcotics is too much and his son Santino/Sonny has shown an itch for it . But once his father is attacked the son has to fight back . And Sonny does fight back in typical hot headed fashion well acted by James Caan .
But the enemies strike back again to try to kill the Godfather ( Marlon Brando) and his younger son Michael ( Al Pacino ) has to save him at cost of being given a damaging blow on his face by a crooked police captain who is an ally of the drug dealers . The Godfather never wanted him to be part of the crime business , but circumstances have sucked him in it never to leave him ever . His girlfriend Kay ( Diane Keaton ) will have to adjust eventually , even though she is not Sicilian like the entire mafia fraternity .
Riven by the need for revenge , Michael decides to kill the main drug dealer Sollozzo and the police captain in a meeting for negotiations . The movie perfectly shows the tension on the face of a person out to do a gangland killing for the first time . Once he kills , he has to flee to his father's homeland Sicily . And in his absence , the mafia gang war hots up like nothing else . Sonny becomes the de facto head of the family ; actually family being just glorified term for gang . But writer of both the movie and novel builds up the characters of these mafia gangsters as if they are great statesmen .
Yeah all great statesmen , except Sonny . In true unstatesmanlike fashion , his great weakness is his temper . And when his sister gets beaten by her husband , he shakes all security considerations aside to go and give a savage beating to his brother in law . His enemies ( the five families in alliance with the dead Sollozzo ) quickly latch on to this weakness . The brother in law ( whose ego has obviously been massively bruised by the beating he got ) is induced to beat his wife again to induce a security ignoring trip by Sonny to beat his brother in law . And as he barges out of his well protected den without his bodyguards , he is gunned down . In Sicily too , Michael who has fallen madly in love with a Sicilian girl and has married her has to see his wife killed in a bomb meant actually to kill him . How the mighty family of the Corleones have fallen.....
It's time for the Godfather to negotiate a peace with the enemies . But first a word about his acting on hearing and seeing his son Sonny dead . I feel Marlon Brando is at his finest at expressing grief at his son's death . Every muscle of his face seems to quiver with sorrow , especially when he takes the body to be laid to rest to the undertaker who had come to ask his help to take revenge on his daughter's molesters in the beginning of the movie . The daughter's molesters were soundly beaten by the Godfather's men , but such mafia help comes at a price ; you have to repay your dues to the mafia any time they ask....
At the peace negotiations , Godfather Don Corleone has to compromise with his enemies to bring back his son Michael from Sicily . And he has to promise not to take revenge for Sonny . Michael comes back and marries Kay , but the enemies are taking advantage of the Corleones' weakness to take over their territory . The Don tells Michael how to deal with them after his death , because as long as he is alive he cannot break his promise to not renew the war . In real life such gangland promises are not worth the paper they are written on , but the makers of the movie build a larger than life image of the Don as a great man ; he seemingly never breaks his promises . It is important not to get carried away and remember that only in the movies do such people exist .
Once the Don is no more , the enemies ( Barzini and Tattaglia ) make the first move to eliminate his successor Michael by co opting one of his lieutenants . But the Don had already warned Michael of this move before he died ; not for nothing was he called the Godfather . Michael then unleashes his true potential . He shows how cold and calculating he is by becoming godfather of his sister's son . Thus he puts his brother in law the father of the godchild in the dark about his true intentions to kill him in revenge for his part in Sonny's murder . Then he kills him after forcing a confession of his part in Sonny's murder from him . And he also carries to fruition an already well crafted plan to destroy his enemies like Barzini and Tattaglia and their cohorts within his own gang by gunfire . Just how loudly do the guns boom in the movie ? Watch it for that....
Four and a half stars out of five .
Godfather part 3
Saw this movie on netflix . On seeing this movie my reaction was---why didn't the whole Corleone saga end with the end of the first Godfather movie ? At least that showed an uplifting ending with Michael becoming the next Godfather . The next two movies have a depressing hang about them with Michael's wife Kay leaving him in part two and he being forced to kill his own brother Fredo in the same part , leaving Michael increasingly lonely .
The third part completes the tragedy , with Michael dying alone on a wheelchair grieving for the lovely daughter who was the apple of his eye but was killed in another mafia war . Yeah I know these are mafiosi and therefore criminals and actually deserve to die dog's deaths , but after seeing three back to back movies I was getting kinda sentimentally attached to the family of the great Don
So the movie begins with Michael trying to legitimise his empire , something that he had promised to his wife in the first part . But his health is increasingly failing while his son refuses to join the family business , a smart decision because anyone joining the family business has a big chance of getting killed .
In order to legitimise , Michael offers to buy out the Vatican's stake in a real estate company called Immobiliare . The deal would make him a powerful man . In a meeting the other Dons ask Michael for their share in the deal , but he does not want them to get involved as he is in a bid to legitimise himself . So he gives them money from another legitimate deal .But he does not give anything to Joey Zasa , a Don who has already been at loggerheads with Michael's nephew Vincent ; Vincent is illegitimate son of Michael's older brother Sonny . Zasa walks out of the meeting in a huff and attacks the meeting in an armed helicopter , killing most of the assembled Dons .
But Michael escapes only to suffer a diabetic stroke . Vincent takes revenge by killing Zasa . On recovering Michael shows that he may be weak in body but not in mind ; he tells Vincent that it is not Zasa who was the real enemy because Zasa lacked the firepower for such an audacious attack . Michael goes to his ancestors' homeland Sicily to find out who was backing Zasa . He soon discovers an elaborate plan to swindle him on the Immobiliare deal by a group of Dons whose leader is Don Lucchesi and second in command Don Altobello .
His plans to legitimise himself thus roadblocked and himself losing all his friends , Micheal is brought to a crossroads of life . He meets the man who is going to be the next Pope in order to get a breakthrough on the Immobiliare deal , and is forced by the father to confess his sins including murdering his own brother .
In all this saga , only Vincent and his sister Connie are loyal to him , and Michael decides to retire and anoints Vincent as the new Don / Godfather . But the enemy Dons have an elaborate plan ready to kill Micheal---a deadly assassin who never misses his mark .
A further complication is that his own innocent daughter is in love with Vincent . Michael forbids this relationship not only because she is in love with her own cousin but also does not want his daughter to live a dangerous life as a Don's wife , for Vincent will be in constant danger as a mafiosi .
All this comes to head at the performance his son Antony is going to give in a theatre . The assassin is coming to kill Michael brushing aside all the elaborate security arrangements of Vincent , and at the same time his own daughter is going to confront him because she is too much in love with Vincent .
But the Michael/Vincent/Connie trio have both inherited the genes of the original Godfather , and they manage to kill many of their enemies before the enemies can strike . The new Pope has ratified the Immobiliare deal too , before he himself was killed . In fact it would have been a perfect ending except for a complication---a woman in love , Michael's daughter who else . She barges to confront Michael over his non acceptance of her love for Vincent at the same time the assassin hired by his enemies fires a bullet to kill Michael....the assassin is killed by Vincent , thus sealing Michael's triumph over his enemies . But the triumph has come at terrible price , for the assassin's bullet has killed Michael's precious daughter....
So we learn two lessons from the whole Corleone saga---
one -- that crime never pays . This was something we were supposed to learn in school , but the whole saga of the family and the associated deaths dins it more firmly into our heads like nothing else can .
second -- whatever any Don or Godfather thinks about women as immaterial is not true , and women are important . For in the end Michael dies in grief for a woman , his own daughter . Sophia Coppolla who is director Francis Ford Coppolla's own daughter , has brought an innocent charm to her role as Michael Corleone's daughter . After the climax scene I sat almost in tears of sadness because of her death and the death of the great Don and for the end of the Godfather series....no more enemies to encounter and no more stories to see . Of course , there would be other crime movies , but none would have the grandeur of the Godfather .
Three and a half stars out of five .