As I’ve related several times this week, it’s really, really hot here in Northern Virginia. Yesterday was the worst day of the week so far, and today looks like it will even top that. Since neither one of us had a desire to do much of anything else, Kellie and I decided to stay in and watch a movie.
Our movie of choice was only my favorite movie of all time, The Godfather. I’ve seen this movie seven times now, and it hasn’t lost any of the magic that it had that first time I saw it more than 15 years ago.
It’s difficult to put into words just how good this movie really is. Al Pacino’s performance as Michael Corleone — the clean-cut war hero who told his girlfriend at the start of the movie “That’s my family Kay, it’s not me.” — is truly astounding. Slowly but surely he shows us Michael’s descent into evil in the name of protecting his family, a decision that cuts him off from the woman he loves (something that is foreshadowed early in the film when he learns that his father has been shot and, going into a phone booth to call home, closes the door between Kay and himself). Then he makes the fateful decision to take on “The Turk” and a corrupt cop, and his fate is sealed. From there, it doesn’t take long before he inherits his father’s empire and settles scores with his enemies.
One of my favorite sequences in the film comes when Michael visits his father in the hospital. When he arrives, the hospital is almost completely empty. Nobody at the front desk. Nobody at the nurse’s station. And, more importantly, no bodyguards protecting Don Vito. We learn from the only nurse who seems to be left that the police forced the men to leave and it becomes clear that this is setup, and that men are coming to finish the job they started. The music throughout this sequence echoes the increasing tension of the situation, interrupted only by the footfalls of a man coming up the stairs. An assassin ? No, it turns out to be Enzo, a baker who was able to remain in the country thanks to the Don’s political connections. Michael enlists Enzo to stand outside the hospital with him pretending to be bodyguards, which is enough to convince a car full of hit men to drive away.
It’s in the middle of all this, though, that Michael’s transformation becomes complete. Alone in the room with Vito, he holds his hand and whispers, “I’m with you now, Dad. I’m with you now.” Vito smiles, but obviously doesn’t understand what Michael really means.
Another great sequence comes near the end of the movie, which alternates between scenes of the baptism of Michael’s nephew and God-son and scenes of the assassination of the enemies of the Corleone family. The religious significance of the scene is made obvious, and its a method (along with the big family gathering at the beginning of the movie) that Francis Ford Coppolla would return to in both Godfather sequels.
And Pacino isn’t the only one who delivers a great performance. Marlon Brando, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton. The list of stellar performances in this movie goes on. It’s not hard to see why this movie always ranks near the top of every all-time top ten list.
Though I am Godfather veteran, this was the first time that Kellie had seen it. How did she like it ? Well, let’s just say that, tonight, mostly at her request, we’ll be watching The Godfather, Part II