THE GODFATHER (1972) C widescreen 175m dir: Francis Ford Coppola

w/Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Cone, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Gianni Russo, Al Lettieri

One of the most riveting American movies ever made, with an absolutely superb performance by Brando as the aging head of a powerful mafia clan. It's set in 1945 on Long Island, with other sequences shot in Sicily. Based on the best-selling novel by Mario Puzo, this is one of the few times where the film is an improvement on the book.

From The Movie Guide: "One of the central American movies of the last 25 years, and one of the very few to succeed as both popular entertainment and high art. THE GODFATHER changed forever the popular perception of organized crime, implying strong parallels between the workings of the Mafia and those of any other profit-making corporation, and imparting operatic gravity to its liberal doses of violence. ...

"Great movies aren't usually planned as such: they happen through an unusual confluence of talents and qualities. THE GODFATHER is no exception. Coppola had set out simply to redeem a faltering career when he started to shoot the popular Mario Puzo mafia novel. His talent brought him luck. First he collected an extraordinary number of the great actors who made American filmmaking interesting during 70s and 80s: Marlon Brando, James Caan, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall. Then he spiced the mixture with some accomplished character actors: John Marley, Al Lettieri, Sterling Hayden, and Coppola's sister, Talia Shire. Coppola also had the eminent good taste --- or good luck --- to get Nino Rota to write his last great score. He got a finely crafted script from author Puzo, and then worked obsessively to push all involved to the limits of their abilities, and sometimes beyond.

"Puzo's novel (which also redeemed a faltering career) provided not one, but several mythic elements that Coppola was canny enough to reinforce in the film. THE GODFATHER is a generational saga; it's also an action film; but above all, it catches the imagination of audiences because it suggests that the career of a gangster is not so very different from the career of a businessman or a politician. This had important resonance for the generation of the early 70s.

"The film is dark --- Coppola had cinematographer Gordon Willis deliberately underlight each scene; the mood is is dark; and the climax, in which Michael [Pacino] indulges in an orgy of blood vengeance, would simply be horrific, were it not for the ironic melodies of the Rota score, which underline the humane sensibilities of the storyteller and keep us at an appropriate distance. And this points to Coppola's greatest achievement with THE GODFATHER; he simultaneously presents us with two views of the Corleone family. We see it from within, sympathizing with the motives and dilemmas of these very real, attractive and charismatic individuals; and we see it from without, in a state of suspended disgust at a moral code that knows only greed and blood."

Oscars were awarded to THE GODFATHER for Best Picture, Actor (Brando), and Adapted Screenplay (both Puzo and Coppola). The film was also nominated for Best Director, Supporting Actor (Caan, Duvall, and Pacino), Editing (William Reynolds, Peter Zinner), Costume Design (Anna Hill Johnstone), and Sound (Bud Grenzbach, Richard Portman, Christopher Newman).

Coppola made a sequel in 1974, THE GODFATHER, PART II, and another in 1990, THE GODFATHER, PART 111.