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The Godfather | Retrospective

Fifty years on from the release of a truly iconic film

by Anttoni James Numminen

‘I wanted a movie, and for my sins, they gave me one… And when it was over, I never wanted another,’ to paraphrase Captain Willard in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Because if I was sent to a desert island with only one DVD, it might very well have to be that film which, like a dear child, goes by many names: No.1, Il Padrino, The Godfather.

Fifty years on from its original release in 1972, this film remains as iconic and as much a masterpiece as it ever was.

photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Starting in post-war America, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) returns home a decorated war hero but also something of an outsider. Michael is the younger brother and a ‘college boy’ who wants to prove his value to the family, which of course is an important and recurring theme in all three films; as his father (Marlon Brando), the ageing Don says: ‘a man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man.’

At first, Michael represents the gentler side of the family, and we root for him as he promises Kay (Diane Keaton) that the family will one day be legitimate. But of course, things quickly change: when Don Corleone’s life is in danger and Michael avenges him in the name of ‘business’, we begin to suspect that Michael is in fact very similar to his father and brothers.

The film has some stunning visuals accompanied by the music of Nino Rota and a star-studded cast, including the sublime Robert Duvall (a personal favourite). The film also features impressively coordinated crowd scenes such as Connie’s wedding, where we get to enjoy some Italian ballads including the unforgettable Luna Mezzo Mare.

Despite the brilliant direction of Francis Ford Coppola in the studio and on location in the States, my favourite part of the film takes place when Michael is forced to flee the country and returns to his family’s roots in Corleone, Sicily. Though I happened to drive through Corleone last summer and it bears little resemblance to the town in the film, the scenic mountains and palpable heat as experienced by Michael always takes me back to my own visits to Sicily.

The Godfather has so much to give, even if you’ve seen it several times before, and the viewing experience is quite fantastic on the big screen at The Belmont Filmhouse, with restored picture and sound quality.

Unlike many that celebrate a 50th birthday, this film has aged surprisingly well and it still deserves to be seen and criticised. Despite the overriding emphasis on making money in Hollywood, Coppola managed to create a fine work of cinematic art, one that has hugely shaped popular culture, television, and cinema to this day.

Which is why when I think I’ve seen it enough times, ‘they pull me back in!’

The Godfather and other fantastic titles are shown at the Belmont Filmhouse. Student & Young Person memberships are free and grant you access to all regular screenings at 5£, as well as a weekly exclusive screening on Tuesdays at 2£. For more information, go to Membership | Belmont Filmhouse.


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