(In case of rain, the screening will be moved to Cinema Arlecchino and replace the actual screening)
With The Godfather now canonised as one of the most commercially and critically successful of all modern Hollywood productions, it is hard to appreciate the uncertainties that surrounded it. Although Mario Puzo’s novel became an instant publishing sensation in 1969, making a film almost inevitable, Paramount head of production Robert Evans noted that the studio’s recent gangster movies had mostly proved unsuccessful. He judged the solution was to hire an Italian-American director, even if Coppola was initially uncertain about how the film would affect his community’s image. Nor did Coppola’s previous track record as a precocious ‘movie brat’ make him an obvious choice for such a mainstream subject, except for his decision to revisit the classic Hollywood musical with Finian’s Rainbow four years earlier. In practice, tensions between studio, director and actors largely worked in the film’s favour. Calls to inject more action and violence pushed Coppola toward a more graphic portrayal of Mafia behaviour, and ultimately a longer film. The large cast brought many rising stars of 60s ‘new Hollywood’ into the same orbit as the already legendary Brando, giving him a new currency, alongside such veterans as Richard Conte and the singer Al Martino. Surprisingly, two of Coppola’s key creative choices, which now seem indispensable to both this and the subsequent films of the trilogy, were initially contested by Paramount. Director of photography Gordon Willis perfected his low-key lighting register and extensive use of shadows, subtly injecting sepia into the colour balance, and helping establish a new era in cinematography. And for the composer Nino Rota, who had worked with all the great postwar Italian filmmakers, but never on an American film, The Godfather would bring lasting worldwide fame.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Mario Puzo. Scen.: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola. F.: Gordon Willis. M.: William Reynolds, Peter Zinner. Scgf.: Warren Clymer. Mus.: Nino Rota. Int.: Marlon Brando (Don Vito Corleone), Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), James Caan (Sonny Corleone), Richard Castellano (Clemenza), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen), Sterling Hayden (capitano McCluskey), John Marley (Jack Woltz), Richard Conte (Barzini), Diane Keaton (Kay Adams), Al Lettieri (Sollozzo). Prod.: Albert S. Ruddy per Paramount. 35mm. D.: 175’. Technicolor.
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Céline Ruivo (Cinémathèque française)