Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Godfather

  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about “The Godfather.”  I’ve been thinking about Don Vito Corleone, and Michael, Sonny, Fredo, and Connie.  There’s just something about it that lingers, whether you’ve seen it once or fifty times.  It’s more than a horse’s head or a dead fish.  It’s more than a gangster flick.  It’s greater than the sum of its equally sordid parts.

  “The Godfather” is a man’s movie.  It has become a rite of passage, a moment shared between father and son.  I remember my own father sitting me down to watch it for the first time.  Years later, he would buy me the trilogy on DVD for Christmas. 

  And while it’s a man’s movie, there is something almost romantic in the loyalty, the chivalry, the code of the Corleone family.  No, it’s not exclusively for the guys.  There’s something in it for the ladies, too.  Ladies love the renegades of “The Godfather,” and the power they exhibit.

  But why is “The Godfather” the ultimate mob movie?  American organized crime has been around almost as long as America itself.  And there have been gangster movies as long as there have been men with movie cameras. So why has one story, 33 years old, withstood the test of time?

  I would argue that it has to do with the characters, their family, their power, their stories.  And Marlon Brando.  I recently spoke with Brando’s best friend, George Englund.  That interview can be found in this week’s Pulse.

  “We’ve always been fascinated by criminal stars,” Englund said.  “I think it has to do with the fact that we’re a star culture.  We’ve got movie stars, sports stars, legal stars, medical stars, animal stars.  We don’t distinguish, either.  You have John Gotti, Babyface Nelson, and John Dillinger, and they rank right up there with Billy Graham—on the same totem pole.  And Marlon was exemplar of that.  There was never a more compelling star of this culture than he.”

  “The Godfather” is also about family.  No matter how our relationship is with our own family, we’ve always got the Corleone family to whom we can escape.  Englund says, “It’s the family of organized crime.  I mean, they call it family—it’s a pretty cruel family sometimes—but there is that, that knit, that thing that holds it together.  It’s the code, the kiss of death.  It’s very dramatic stuff.”

  A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of having my heart broken by a girl.  Two weeks later, my best friend went through the same thing.  Without planning it, without any discussion on the matter, we both turned to “The Godfather” to get us through it.  I think this is no coincidence.  It was almost a visceral response.  “The Godfather,” in those emasculated moments, was a tool we used to reclaim our manhood. 

  The Fountain Theater will be showing “The Godfather” this week.  If you’ve never seen it on the big screen, or you’re brokenhearted, or your dad’s in town, check it out. 

  -From Pulse
   February 17, 2005