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USA 1972
Directed by
Francis Ford Coppola
168 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

The Godfather

Adapted from Mario Puzo's best-selling novel by the author with Coppola, The Godfather is the film by which every subsequent gangster film is measured. A epic romanticisation of organised crime the Italo-American way during the years 1945-55, as told by Puzo and Coppola, the story of the modernisation of the Corleone family is a thrillingly vicarious ride into the Mafioso underworld with its iron-clad code of honour and sustaining mythos.

More than the well-staged gunplay and the flashy vintage cars and camel-hair overcoats however what captivates is the morally hermetic atmosphere that Coppola manages to evoke so effectively with the help of Gordon Willis's chiaroscuro photography and the thoroughly convincing performances by the cast, not only Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, who was at that time a relatively minor player, having only The Panic In Needle Park on his CV, but James Caan (Burt Reynolds had been earmarked for the part but fortunately Brando baulked), John Cazale, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden and Coppola's sister, Talia Shire, along with the then unknown Diane Keaton.

It was a troubled production with the Paramount executives, who were expecting a low budget genre movie, uncomfortable with Coppola's auteurist proclivities. The director proved them wrong. The film collected ten Academy Award nominations and won Best Picture, beating the favourite Cabaret, Best Actor (Brando) and Best Screenplay. It would remain the highest-grossing film until the vastly inferior Jaws swept all before it three years later.




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