The Tennessean from Nashville, Tennessee on March 30, 1972 · Page 53
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The Tennessean from Nashville, Tennessee · Page 53

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Thursday, March 30, 1972
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56 THE NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN. Tim.. Mar. 30. I9T2 i '-'The Godfather' in Review tssrss ft Jl1 A Family I hat Preys Together 4 1 By HARRV HUN TtmeuMH Mrtiaa Px'ur Edi'or ASA rco ie, "The Gd- - father" loaves a Mrar.co. surprising legacy. For all is parroting and machine-gunn;r.!; and gory corvionta-tor.s, tile scene that makes the indelible mark in memory the one that lingers on Ion? after the film has run its bloody course is the gentle spectacle of a rickety old racketeer romping in his garden with his grandson and quietly dropping dead of natural causes. True, much of this unexpected achievement is linked specifically and substantially to the consummate skill of Marlon Brando, whose title portrayal of an underworld patriarch, Don Vito Corleone, ranks with his best work. But, in a larger sense, it is also tied in w ith the whole fascinating fabric of Mario Tuzo's panoramic view of a gangster dynasty in his ability to weave human characteristics in with inhuman activities, to find a fragile dimension amid ferocious endeavors, to make a nice neat bow out of strong family ties and equally strong criminal commitments. Significantly, the word "family" is the film's euphemism for "Mafia" and "Cosa Nostra" (labels which the Italian-American Civil Rights League had scrubbed from the script at no par-ticilar loss); in fact, in terms of where the movie is going, it is a more appropriate designation. PUZO'S SAGA works on film for the same simple reason it worked as a novel: he has a solid, absorbing story to tell. At a time when many movies are strung out on invisible storylines, "The Godfather" comes on with a full round of plot and charges away, across the Tennessee screen, like a rapid-fire condensation. Which, of course and of necessity, it is. The miracle is that so much of the novel has been put on the screen that it stays taut, tough, consistently interesting for the duration (which is five minutes short of three hours); that fact alone is testament to the holding power of the original material. The brilliance of the screenplay, which Puzo co-authored with director Francis Ford Coppola, lies in its overall assemblage of events : rather than its individual parts; the source is such that It can withstand this hit-and-run rough-handling even benefit from it. Both its plot and its people are powered by primitive instincts and primitive incidents. The characters are eminently easy to read, cut in the o:vn, without subtle facades ta hide behind Thus, ail the god stutf of the novel ries to the top. and all the steamy comme r c i a 1 consideratiens (notably, th? sexp'oi's of the Don's Number One so:i, San-tino "Sonny" Corleone) settle to the bot'em to bo casually ind.cated. A sharp, tight focus has been thrown on the Corleone clan, eliminating subplots and minimizing the subsidiary characters outside the family unit. It is "One Man's Family" with garlic, gangland flavor. Just as L u c h i n o ' Yiseonti superbly used a single perverse family to mirror the dawning of Naziism in "The Damned." director Coppola uses the Corleones as a microcosm of modern Mafia maneuvering; the old-guard hoodlum empire of Vito Corleone is passed along to his Ivy League-educated youngest son. Michael, who rounds off the rough edges and channels his dad's ill-got gains into "legitimate enterprises." But, the Corleones being only one of the live Italian-American families carving up the underworld riches, that route is vivid and violent with dissension. Vito himself takes his share of lumps and slugs for resisting the postwar proposition of cornering the drug market. While he is on the mend, Michael steps up to extract double -murder revenge and exiles himself to Sicily, where he then takes a bride who subsequently goes tip in the poof of a car-bomb blast. When brother Sonny, the Corleone heir-apparent, also comes to a grisly end-of-the-road, Michael returns to America and to power. On the day he becomes godfather to his sister's son, he really arrives, renouncing Satan in a church ceremony while his henchmen move in to assassinate his father's enemies; even the father of Michael's new godson isn't spared in this brutal balancing-of-the-books. BOTH GODFATHERS, the old and the new, are governed and moved to violence by a perverse sense of honor. Contradictions and inconsistencies bang together internally, producing the film's two most intriguing characterizations. Al Pacino as Michael has the longer, harder haul of it, shouldering the bulk and burden of the plot with authority and conviction; his slow-building, slow-burning portrayal makes some tricky transitions en route to power and makes them stick from "green" Ivy Leaguer t o vendetta-driven, dutiful son to the calculating, cold-hearted Corleone-in-command. Brando, in some genuinely creative character-acting, makes a memorable and moving figure of the aging mafioso, working from a much smaller acting space but filling it with such an expanse of mood and emotion that his presence is sensed in scenes he's not even in. Dick Smith's splendid makeup effects (thick jowls, deep-set lines locking in a downcast expression, et al) abet Brando's persuasion, but mostly it's the actor working his way illumiratingly into the soul vl his ro'v. James Caan does a fine, fierce joh of the lusty, hotheaded Sonny, and John Cazae stands out quietly as the ftiir.h'.ing inelfeetual in this family of tigers, brother Fredo. who meekly oversees the fami'y interests in Las Vegas. Some excellent low-keved support is supplied by Robert Duvall as the only non-Italian in the Don's domain, the attorney and adopted son Tom Hagen. Also making passing impacts are John Marley and Alex Rocco as twp self-absorbed tycoons who give the family static and get tragic responses for i t (respectively, movie mogul Jack Woltz and Vegas hotel-owner Moe Greene). Otily Sterling Hayden as the corrupt police-captain MeCluskey and Diane Keaton as Michael's second wife seem slightly out-of sync in a picture that has been cast with j:ini!.:t precision. Several pertormanees get by easily on face value alone. Among the finer Italian mugs on hand are Richard Castellano as the lethal but loyal henchman Cle-menza. Richard Conte as the Corleones' kingpin rival Barzini, Salvatore Corsitto as the undertaker Bonasera who seeks bloody "justice" for his daughter's rape and Al Let-tieri as the dope-hustling hood Sollozzo. Two nightclub performers register effective film debuts, looking their parts (or, rather what's left of their 'THE GODFATHER' , . MartM ftr Ihi Bri ... Lett MwtaM : Al PacM Pw Gatte jw Arti - Jtmn Cua Iwwa $alvatx Carina ; Br OtlelUa fctri iKkHi Brum ctwrf OwK Ma Gru ... . Alt! fttcc .. Stain Mvem Ta1alia Gmt Jofta AMrW K nor mm Vile &H. I cr Cm Tlweva HIM .. .. Ttfl Iwi ; 0i4n k.a'M fmn.p Tn!i . Vxrlar t Al letiMFri Locv kUnciM .. . Jean Liana ; Aha VrtMa SjJra C " .. Jul Tali s.rt Mrv Clcmrau ArOK SM : Cuu Rum Apolttwia $rmMi Sletanrili : Jfw Citur Fabru .. Am? Imantt . .. R rtv Pan Iwhiuuih .. . Cl'M ' Al Maitma Oe FcmkI CilM ; .. Motmm Kinf Viittt ... .. . .. Sara Um Michaat Cof lrae &m Cwitn Ttm Hra . . c i McCIuUm . . ! Ui !! . . -: Karl m . : kav tlwi .. t Tet.a f; Carl Run v Frrda Cortoa . Cum Jermiy Fantana : Mam Certaant l vv (vis. A;y) u" (J) V,l.lYiati I parts: Al Martino as the Don's godson, a Sinatraesque crwner-aetor named Johnny Fontane, and Morgana King as the Don's wife, who probably has quite a story to tell herself but only seems to show up at weddings and funerals. A more striking debut is made by Lenny Montana, a hulking ex-wrestler who plays the Corleones' doomed goon Luca Brasi; he comes to an especially vicious end but not without a telling little throwaway scene that shows him, alone in a hotel room, slipping into a bulletproof vest to attend a business conference. CONSIDERABLE attention has been given to conveying the period of the piece, which is a broad canvas spanning from 1943 through the 50s. The costumes of Anna Hill Johnstone and the production design of Dean Tavoularis correctly echo the time shifts. r . itmiili i'f I I. ij. II iM I,' i.il WTiir--r ir-i iii ! Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) views the bullet-riddled remains of his first-born, Sonny (James Caan) , in a scene from the Tennessee's "The Godfather." BAYOU'S OWN BAR B-Q Cooked on our own open pit, using our special BAR-B-Q sauce, blended in the Bayou kitchen. BAR-B-Q that will please the most discriminating gourmet. Served w Bayou green salad, choice of dressing, baked beans. CHICKEN SIRLOIN STRIP PORK RIBS BEEF RIBS Hwy. 100 (one mile past the Barn) Open 5:30 Tues.-Sun. CALL FOR RESERVATIONS 352-4567 D I Ms 1 :30-3:30-5:30- 2 OSCAR NOMINATIONS! CEORCE C. SCOTT BEST ACTOR! AND BEST SCREENPLAY! "'S 7r Id I la V fif' ..''.'d 2 7:30-9:30 1:15-3:20-5:30-7:30-9: 0 S OSCAR NOMINATIONS! BEST SONC. SCORINC, VISUAL EFFECTS, COSTUME AND DIRECTION! JffWfWHQE I WALT DISNEY . kPvUmi L. .c K RATED PC COLOR ' ' " j JiS II FRIE PARKING Hie NEW Adventures of ELSA s Cubs! 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This methodical progression is a storytelling indulgence which Puzo and Coppola can well afford, for the brute force the film inherited from the book is the thing that keeps "The Godfather" in rush, hard-driving pear. The violence that litters the way is dealt with in stark, stunning fashion; but a measure of unprcdicted poignancy also manages to make itself felt, and it is this additional dimension . that makes t h e resulting view of Mafia life both dangerously romanticized and vet undeniably real. &.ti V innTTTTc;! now showinc U-MllA;4 Feature Times 1:45-5-8:15 ADMISSION PRICES 1 :45 ADt'LTS S2 00 Orthestra, J2.2S t. CHILDREN SI. 00 O'-ttri. 512$ lota. 5:00 b $:!$ ADULTS $2.2$ Orchettn, SI.S0 Lota. CrtaOREN $12$ O'chejlia. S1SO leu. Feature 7:309:30 2otti Century-Fox preser.'s the panic in needle park COLOR by DE LUXE K 6TH AVE CINEMA 118 6rh AVE. S. 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SOFT DRINKS Your choice of favorite soft drinks, served ice-cold. Pn'Ce3 In Effect All navThnrerfau tiW.'SV 1 i"iMiui mm mm Family Restaurants tm NASHVILLE 5405 Harding Road 3010 Oickerson Road 3006 NolenwilU Road Gallatin Rd. & Monticol! Dr., Madison Clarksville Muffreesboro Shelbyvill Tullahoma Cookevill Columbia Bowling Gren, Kyt Glasgow. Ky. Hopkinsville, Ky.

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