Reviews

The Godfather 40th Anniversary Collection

4

A family reunion we still can't refuse

Only seven storylines exist in fiction.

Whether you believe this old chestnut or not, it’s undeniably true that “good man becomes bad man” is one of the oldest and best-worn arcs of all.

You can, if you feel so inclined, trace it from Oedipus and Hamlet all the way through to current hot-ticket drama Breaking Bad, and Francis Ford Coppola’sThe Godfather trilogy is the best and most intricate big-screen rendering.

It’s family loyalty that undoes Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), the wayward mob son who becomes reluctantly dragged into the family business after an assassination attempt on his father (Marlon Brando).

Pacino’s astonishing performance has become known so well for its later turns that it’s easy to forget just how convincing he is as a doe-eyed young idealist.

No matter how inevitable his decline, it holds the same devastating thrill on the 50th watch as it does on the first.

Coppola and novelist Mario Puzo’s screenplay is peppered with pithy, emotionally specific character beats that make this sprawling world feel almost instantly familiar.

Carlo and Connie’s wedding sequence is deceptively simple, but tells you something crucial about almost every character, while Michael’s realisation that his hands aren’t shaking in the hospital is as powerful as, “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.”

As quotable as the trilogy is, its resounding power lies as much in its unspoken moments. But you know all this already.

Here’s something new - Part III? It really isn’t all that bad.

Yes, it’s nonsensical as a standalone film and yes, Sofia should probably stay behind the camera. But Coppola himself has suggested it’s more of an epilogue than a true third part, and on that basis it works, providing the necessary fall after the first two films’ rise.

While much of the behind-the-scenes material isn’t new, it’s all been remastered to match the films’ shiny new coat, and in any case it’s tough to improve on Coppola’s candid, intimate chat tracks.

Another oldie-but-goodie is the Godfather World featurette, which sees talking heads from The Sopranos creator David Chase to Alec Baldwin discussing the trilogy’s cultural significance.

New bits include a copy of the original Godfather shooting script, some previously unseen behind-the-scenes photography, and post-production featurette When The Shooting Stopped, which digs up some surprising nuggets.

But the jewel in this box-set crown quite rightly remains the three films themselves: remastered to a ravishing standard and pivoting, for all their vastness, on one man’s small, sad fall from grace.

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