It seems as though it were only yesterday that Coppola’s ‘Godfather’ burst into our consciousness. And yet it was 40 years ago, and the film has not lost a minute of its savour and spice.
Based on Puzo’s novel, Coppola showed us film as grand opera, as Visconti had done before in Lampedusa’s ‘Leopard’.
Coppola followed up his stunning success with a ‘Godfather 2’, which many think is even better than the original ‘Godfather’. And came ‘Godfather 3’, which seemed a lesser film yet no less operatic in vision.
Brando, Pacino, Cazale, DiNiro, King, Keaton, Caan, Shire, Duvall, Garcia, Strasberg, Vigoda, Castellano, Hayden, Conte and so many more names, for a moment, became household names, even though many had drawing star power before.
‘Godfather’ glamourised crime families as they much as they had been demonised in the past. The three films affected the way the mafiosi and dons acted. They took on the role of the actors of Coppola and Puzo’s creation, stylising behaviour so that life imitated the art of cinema.
Thirty years later the successful TV series ‘The Sopranos’ became a living testimony of a ‘Godfather’ that failed.
On the other hand, ‘Godfather’ portrayed the assimilation of despised minorities that came to America’s shores during the period of great emigration before world war one.. They were a reflexion of a seemingly WASP society that thought very highly of itself but refused to see its flaws. And it is these very flaws of capitalist America that Coppola magnified and romanticised, as the down trodden became Americanised as Kraft cheese.
Is ‘Godfather’ the greatest America film. If it isn’t, it is almost ‘primus inter pares’.
Let’s not forget the music so powerfully intoxicating from the scores of Coppola’s father and the great Nino Rota.