The Godfather ★★★★½

You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy to me?

#11 of BFI's top 101 films of all time.

Coppola's tragedian epic is a baggy, rotting picture. At times, it threatens to spill out past the borders of the screen right onto its audience's lap. It's a film that attempts to capture the life, death, and rebirth of a legendary criminal, a prolific businessman, and, most of all: a father.

Coppola and Willis fill the screen with inky blacks and then paint swaths of honey gold across the frame. Like a great Rembrandt, The Godfather captures beauty and opulence of both life and death. And, indeed, for a picture so suffuse in the crimson wake of death, The Godfather is one of the liveliest pictures ever put to film. Coppola begins his three-plus hour epic with a marriage.

It's a masterful scene. As he cuts back and forth between the partygoers outside and Don Correleone's shady dealings in the smoky interiors of his home, we're introduced to all the principal players of this narrative - a narrative that stretches years, two continents, and two Godfathers.

The vivacity of that beginning, a beginning that marks the beginning of a rotting marriage, a rotting empire, and a rotting man, contrasts perfectly against the ending; an ending which, through the simplicity of a shut door, communicates the inevitability of Michael Correleone's eventual rot.

Apocalypse Now is still Coppola's most engaging masterwork - and the best film I've ever seen - but The Godfather is a masterpiece in and of itself. It remains a 4.5/5.

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