How ‘The Godfather’ Changed Me

It was some random day in 8th grade, probably a Thursday.

I had done all my homework for the day so I was flipping through the channels when I landed on 125, the Sundance Channel.

It’s Bill Murray in a cab, hurtling down a street. He’s impatiently checking his watch as the car zips through bikes, animals, and pedestrians meandering on the dirt road. The car slams to a stop at a train station, Murray gets out without paying, then rushes to the front of a queue to board his train.

This movie was The Darjeeling Limited, directed by Wes Anderson.

darjeeling-ltd-letterbox

The Whitman Brothers

Not long after that, I proceeded to go to three different libraries to get the DVDs for every other Wes Anderson movie. In four days, I watched the director’s whole filmography and felt transformed.

This was my first foray into film.

And since, I’ve been obsessed with anything film; film trivia, film cinematography, directors and their bodies of work. Everything. I’ve also grown as a viewer in terms of knowing the social contexts of films, how problematic tropes within movies get in the way of art, and histories of certain filmmakers as well, among other considerations. 

So fast forward a few years to this past summer, where I was in a total rut when it came to films. I didn’t feel like watching anything but rom-coms I had already seen a hundred times before or the Harry Potter series… I didn’t feel motivated to discover.

It all changed when we watched The Godfather (baby Al Pacino!!) in CIN101. I had never seen the classic before (I know, I know!), but I never really got into the gangster movie genre. However, when Professor Stoddard analyzed the movie last week, I was blown away.

His points especially about the film as a critique to the “American Dream” and the use of low-key lighting were especially interesting. The former dealt with the film and its violence  rationalized to the ideology of “making it” in America. Although I don’t relate to the violence, I do relate to the American ideal after growing up in California for most of my life. The latter analysis of the low-key lighting, or the use of minimal light to accentuate shadows, further amplifies the seediness of the Corleone family business.

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The New Don Corleone

There is so much more I can learn about film; artistically, socially, and formally. I’m just excited that I’m finally getting back into the hang of things, which is ultimately getting lost in movies. It was something I really loved all of high school. When my interest started to wane earlier this year, it was disheartening.

classic dvd goodfellas

Ray Liotta had some mesmerizing baby blues amirite

So this past weekend, I consumed more gangster genre films, like Legend (with Tom Hardy) and Scorsese’s Goodfellas (I’m funny how? I mean, like I’m funny like a clown?). Up next on the queue is Gangs of New York…but maybe after I actually spend some time studying.

Is there really a gangster genre film better than the Godfather? Thoughts?

 

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