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The Godfather is the first in a trilogy about how an Italian family in America became a powerful cog in the giant Mafia over several generations, led by the migrant Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), whose single minded business acumen and cunning tactics, strict but immoral ethics laid the groundwork. The story traces the family's power plays, its inner turmoils, its tragedies and its relationships with the empire of the Mob in a young America. In this first part of the story, the so-far innocent young Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is dragged into the bloody family business when his father is critically wounded by rival gangsters who want to start selling drugs in New York - which is against Corleone policy. (The entire trilogy was released on October 2001 in a 5-disc set; this is the first in a new film-by-film release, with Parts 2 and 3 released in November 2004.)

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Within the first highly economical and cinematically gripping six minutes of The Godfather, we learn a great deal about Don Corleone and his lifestyle, his morality and his power. We are also instantly immersed in the world he inhabits - both physically (New York, late 1920s, early 1930s) - and conceptually.

Francis Ford Coppola turned Mario Puzo's book into cinema; it's visceral and captivating. The juxtaposition of wealth and power with brutality and private justice is as seductive as the juxtaposition of death and sex, or good and evil, or yin and yang - and they play a role in this extraordinary film.

Marlon Brando, in the role that won him his second Oscar (which he famously refused to accept in a political gesture aimed at supporting American Indian land rights) creates a Don that could walk off the screen and into reality without changing a hair. Al Pacino (championed by Coppola but resisted by others) also makes his cinematic bones here, and these two towering performances lift the others in their wake.

Two (out of hundreds) of significant behind the scenes contributors to this film are composer Nino Rota and production designer Dean Tavoularis. Rota, who was Fellini's composer of choice, creats a perfect hook for the film, resonating with nostalgia but not empty nostalgia - it contains the seeds of fate. Tavoularis catches every nuance to use the language of the eyes as a communication tool, often subliminally.

The test of a classic is its lasting value and appeal: The Godfather on DVD is fantastic value - you will enjoy it dozens of times. Every time you watch this film, you are swept away by its internal forces, gripped by the characters and your senses exposed by Coppola's passionate filmmaking. The transfer retains the film's dark, moody tones, its shadowy interiors and its timeless exteriors, and the audio (if a tad brittle) is highly effective in bringing us into the moment - sometimes with an alarming proximity.

In his commentary, Coppola reveals stories from the set, the logistics and how he loves to use real weather - and about writing characters out of the script to avoid "a pickle" or inventing new ones to get over a problem. What he can't of course articulate, is how he managed to make one of the greatest films in American cinema history. Nobody knows the how, but we can all see the what.

Published August 5, 2004

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(US, 1972)

CAST: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, Diane Keaton

DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola

SCRIPT: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola

RUNNING TIME: 175 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16:9; DD 5.1 (English);

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Francis Ford Coppola (from the 2001 Godfather trilogy release); subtitles in Danish, English, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Suomi


DVD RELEASE: August 5, 2004

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