May 17, 2022

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How was ‘The Godfather’ reviewed?

On March 14, 1972, fifty years ago, it had its world premiere at Loew’s State Theater in New York. The GodfatherWhich will reach US cinemas within ten days. Its cost was about seven million dollars, according to the book The New York Times “It had the same number of copies as the Bible,” and had anticipated with great curiosity about Marlon Brando’s interpretation, The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola immediately went very well and became the highest-grossing film of the year. It was also very popular abroad (it arrived in Italy in September) and with a large part of film critics.

It is regarded – as it is today, half a century after that preview – as one of the best and most influential films of all time, one of the films before and after, capable of changing the genre as well as cinema in general. However, it arrived over time, due to the subsequent deposition of views and opinions. As with other films, the first reviews of Spiritual fatherWritten by some of the most famous film critics of all time, they presented the film as commendable, to some excellent, but they never spoke of it as a masterpiece designed to make cinema history.

In reviewing the film—set in New York after World War II, in the years when a reluctant son Michael initially took over as Mafia boss held by his father (and godfather) Vito Corleone—critic A.D. Murphy. he wrote On diverseIn short, the film has a lot of great atmosphere, a great Al Pacino interpretation, excellent character study by Brando and a solid supporting team. It is enough for some just a job left unfinished for others.” According to Murphy, The Godfather It was “too long and confusing at times.” “Although it never gets so quiet that it gets boring, it never gets so captivating that it becomes a higher level drama.”

It was less negative, day Chicago Sun TimesRoger Ebert who gave The film’s highest possible rating (by its scale, four stars out of four). Ebert appreciated the way the film transcends the “glare and luster of traditional gangster movies and leaves us with what remains: proud tribal loyalties, murderous squabbles in small Brooklyn neighborhoods, and a specific form of revenge for all kinds of people I encounter.” Like many reviews of the time, Ebert also dedicates several lines to the book: at the time the film was still strongly seen as a film adaptation of a successful novel. Ebert recalls how much the book seemed to be written from within the Mafia, noting that the movie also managed to “feel the same.” “Coppola found a style and a visual aspect that paid off,” he added The Godfather rareAnd the A really good movie.”

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According to Ebert, “We tend to identify with Don Corleone not because we want a war between families, but because we’ve been with his family from the start, seeing them waiting for battle while they sit in the kitchen eating spaghetti.” Ebert, like many other critics and viewers after him, has also pointed out that unlike the book “the godfather himself is not the central character of the story”. Speaking of that character, Ebert wrote that Brando managed to convey the idea of ​​”a man so accustomed to power that he no longer has to task others with reminding them”, but that he appears to have “put so much cotton in his cheeks, that he made the lower part of his face still.”

However, Ebert was not among those who thought the film was too long: “There is something,” he wrote, “in the passage of time in which Don Corleone is in power, which would have made a short duration inappropriate.” That, he added: “Despite this length, there are characters and relationships that you wouldn’t understand if you didn’t read the book; or perhaps could only be understood through the way the characters look at each other.”

To explain Brando was dedicated Related part of Andrew Sarris’ review of village soundBrando wrote after a few paragraphs of preamble about waiting for this performance, “He makes an excellent performance as Don Vito Corleone, a role played by Lee J. Cobb. [un noto caratterista morto nel 1976] He could have explained in his sleep and without special tricks.” For Sarris, “Brando hasn’t slipped into the part, he’s letting the part occupy his distinct personality.” The review then talked about the fact that “although Brando dominates every scene in which he appears, the portion is relatively small, and there are other actors who have been able to be just as good with much less effort.”

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OnThe Hollywood ReporterCritic Arthur King he wrote He preferred explanations other than those of Al Pacino (“a kind of Dustin Hoffman weakness”) and praised the way Coppola was able to “re-create a certain time and place” where “rich and rich” interiors had the scorched face of the old photographs of those years” and the outer parts were “flooded with sun and colour.” According to the king, The Godfather It was a “curious movie” in terms of how it “makes the activities of the godfather and his clan understandable, almost justified”.

– Read also: The movie that changed the movies

On New YorkerCritic Pauline Kyle I speak subordinate Spiritual father “As an example of how the best popular films emerged from the fusion of art and the market.” Di Brando wrote: “Is it cool?” Yes, it is, but it often is. He added that no one “has aged better than him on screen” and appreciated the way the actor was able to “bring Don Vito close to death”, sometimes “even innocence”. About Don Vito Corleone, Kyle writes that it was “all the echo and nuance, not the hype” and that thanks to the “legendary presence” of Brando’s character, the film rose from a gang war novel to telling the archetype of war.”

Kyle Pacino also filled in with praise: “You never catch him with a desire to act, yet he is able to change, from small and skinny-looking, rather cutesy, to a master of crime, becoming more intense, small, and isolated with each step he takes.” Coppola was able to combine these two interpretations, Kyle wrote that the trend “never accentuates the bonds between father and son, they are simply there so you can see them whenever you want.”

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On the other hand, Kyle, author of one of the reviews that praised the film the most (“It’s a famous melodrama, but expressed with new tragic realism”) didn’t like it at all: the novel “and wrote that she found it ‘unreadable’ because it ‘tells you who and what’ It’s the characters in a few sharp sentences, and nothing more, it tells you about their past and their sexuality through a few tales, and then it goes on.”

write to The New York TimesCritic Vincent Canby He knew The Godfather “One of the most brutal and exciting chronicles of American life ever made is designed for popular entertainment.” In his homage to both Al Pacino and Marlon Brando he also wrote that the former was “an actor worthy of the latter as a father”.

The film was also very popular with Gene Siskel, one of the great critics who was active at the time. Referring to the end, Siskel he wrote: «The Godfathernow and possibly forever in a Chicago theater, ends up shutting a door in the audience’s face, and because we’ve been behind that door for nearly three hours, the film has such a big impact.”