RETRO FILM – Half a century ago, the greatest gangster film of all time, The Godfather, was released. To mark the anniversary, Francis Ford Coppola’s digitally restored classic is being re-released in limited numbers in cinemas worldwide.
The organised underworld has been the starting point for many great films, but The Godfather, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, is arguably the most influential of them all. Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film, which bridged the gap between family, drama and gangster film, was released in Hungary only ten years later, in 1982, and not only did it bring a gripping story to the screen: it also excelled in its depiction of the New York mafia wars after World War II, a powerful film that also stands out for its setting. Thanks to exhaustive detail and superb acting, the story of the Corleone clan from 1945-55 is still with us fifty years later. Based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, the film is a stark portrayal of the Italian-born mafia machine that became one of the world’s most fearsome transnational powers, with shocking scenes and showdowns in its time.
It starred some of the biggest names in acting
The Godfather owes its cult status in part to its exceptional casting. Coppola cast Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone. The brilliant performance of the latter won him a Golden Globe and an Oscar (he did not accept the latter but sent an Indian woman to the awards ceremony with a message instead). The other main character is Don’s son Michael Corleone, who was at first consciously shy of the business but took over the family business after the assassination attempt on his father and brother. Paramount considered many stars of his time for the role, but Coppola wanted a young actor with real Italian roots. His decision proved to be perfect: although the young Al Pacino, at the beginning of his career, had only appeared in small films shortly before, his performance convinced audiences and the studio of his immense talent. The rest of the supporting cast, including James Caan, Robert Duvall, Richard Castellano and Diane Keaton, also gave outstanding performances in the film. The Godfather’s distinctive imagery is brought to life by Gordon Willis’ exquisite use of colour, light and dark, striking camera angles, the “Rembrandt of cinematography”. Finally, the film’s success is inextricably linked to Nino Rota’s legendary Grammy-winning score.
Scandals marred the film
A TV series on the making of The Godfather is already in the works, revealing the hitherto little-known fact that a series of obstacles hampered the making of the greatest classic in cinema history. Coppola was constantly being fired by the studio, and other actors were replacing Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. Mario Puzo, the author of the novel on which the film is based, was not left alone either: he had a public falling out with Frank Sinatra because the Hollywood star and singer had made a name for himself in one of the characters, Johnny Fontane, but the mafia also threatened the production. This is the subject of a miniseries called The Offer, which will debut soon on Paramount+.
A colossal classic, which never left us
Coppola finally succeeded in seeing his concept through. With this epic film, crafted down to the last detail, he became a world-famous director, winning three of the 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and, with Mario Puzo, Best Screenplay, as well as numerous festival awards. His iconic characters, memorable scenes and iconic dialogue have become indelibly etched in the pop culture of the twentieth century, including as memes on social networks.
Fifty years after its original theatrical release, Paramount Studios, under the professional direction of Coppola, has completely restored the film and will re-release it on the big screen in a limited series of screenings in selected cinemas worldwide in February. In Hungary, the film will be screened for a week from 10-16 February at the renovated Cinema MOM cinema in MOM Park, equipped with armchairs, in the original language only and with Hungarian subtitles.