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Monday, June 21, 2010

Jarret's Frank Film Forum: The Godfather(s)

June 21, 2010: I'm nearly through the three Godfather movies ... again ... and I'm alive (or awash) with lots of clever -- No, correct that! -- a handful of observations. (I don't want to promise anything I can't deliver.)

For starters, what I think most people fail to realize, or perhaps accept, is that the script itself is not that good. Well, certainly it has its moments, its clever lines, etc. And mind you, I love the films (certainly the first two). But I've watched that first movie 20 times at least, and for the life of me I still can't see any difference between Barzini and Tatalia, and I can't figure out what it is they do, or who double-crosses who, nor can I even pick them out from amongst the cast in the film. It's really weird, but so much drama seems to rest on it, and when Vito finally says, while driving in the car, that it was "Barzini all along," and the music dips dramatic, again and again I find myself befuddled by what it is that I'm supposed to care about.

That said, what really makes these movies, in my estimation, is the cinematography, which is brilliant and powerful, and I'll quickly add that the set designing (and costumes) are close behind. Cheers to Gordon Willis, who really demonstrates how important that art is to film, and credit to Coppola for being smart enough to work with him.

The acting, of course, is pretty good too, except I've come to have less and less respect for the craft of acting, because I think it's a lot easier to do it well than people realize, especially on film. There's a great quote from Richard Dreyfuss, which I love so much, I actually bothered to look it up and include here: He said, "I don't think film acting is necessarily a triumph of technique. Film stardom is a friendship that happens between an audience and a performer. It's like you meet someone and you click with that person for whatever reason." Brilliant, and refreshingly honest. (And Dreyfuss rules, of course!) Of course, we love all the principals in this cast, and that's that. I know I'm willing to forgive Brando for using cue cards, Duvall for being bald, etc.

But God, I'm being so drearily serious about this. I really thought this would be a great opportunity to rip into Godfather III and garner some great laughs at the expense of Sophia Coppola. (My God, that girl is unattractive, and I'm sorry to have to say it, but somebody needs to. And to watch her in love scenes with the dashing Andy Garcia is not far from the bizarre juxtaposed spectacle of seeing a handsome male guest star flirting with Miss Piggy on the Muppet Show.

I saw Godfather III only once before, and I was amazed at how awful it was. Much to my surprise, this time I'm enjoying it much more and even see some merit there (although not much, I'm afraid, for the better part of it is residual ... But see how much I've grown in my acceptance and tolerance.)

But the director's daughter aside -- and she's really not that bad an actor, if I'm to be fair -- the film has some moments that are such painful parodies of the first two movies, it's ridiculous. Clearly Francis and company have read too much historic material on the first two movies, and included a lot of embarrassing regurgitations, references and such. ("Never tell anyone what you're thinking," Michael tells Vinnie, paraphrasing (or should I say mis-paraphrasing his father from the first film, and just sounding stupid in the process). Oh Please Francis!

And Pacino, who had such a personality in the first two movies, dreadfully falls back on his later-life acting method (complete with the raspy Devil's Advocate delivery), and chews the scenery beyond all recognition when he has his diabetes-induced attack in the kitchen. I found myself laughing outloud in hysterics at this "dramatic" scene.

And what the hell's with Connie. My god, she looks like the winner of an Anne Rice lookalike contest. And how about Joe (The Simpsons' Fat Tony) Montagne, and his wooden, over-articulated play at Joey Zsaza (or is it Zahzah? ... or Zaa Zaa?) Oh Please Please!! (Duvall was no fool to miss #3.)

But at the end of the day, the package is so terrific -- nine hours of the family we love! Such fun and voyeuristic feasting. One only wishes they'd made it into a TV series when the cast was still young. Kudos to all of them. Yay Mario Puzo, you fat guinea hack! My people will be forever grateful to you! Ciao!


  1. I am a veritable phenomenon of cultural ignorance, but along with the never-having-seen-a-Bond-film gene I also have large quantities of the Neglected-to-watch-a-single-Godfather-film chromosome. And until now, have never been remotely troubled by this omission. But, BUT your reviews now make me want to watch them all, even (or maybe especially) the one with the execrably bad Sophia (somewhat agnostic about her directorial oeuvre, so I can well believe it). Bravo! Now I only need a rainy weekend to watch them all, and we have plenty of them here.

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