THE GODFATHER: SAPPHIRE SERIES
Paramount Pictures / 1972 / Rated R
THE FILM ( * * * * * )
What can be said that hasn’t already been said about Francis Ford Coppola’s brilliant The Godfather? It tops countless “Top 100” lists, has been copied, lampooned and referenced more times than the Fab Five. And not unlike the 1942 classic Casablanca, it’s hard strip the movie to its core and watch it without all of the baggage that comes with a film so seminal. Having said that, this is easily one of the most brilliant films ever made. It’s more subtle than you think. From the brilliant script by Coppola and Mario Puzo (based on the latter’s bestseller of the same name), to the beautiful bronze and deeply dark photography of Gordon Willis to the sublime performances by countless Hollywood legends, this is as perfect a movie that any studio has ever produced. And it’s all thanks to Coppola’s vision for the film. Where the studio wanted to shoot it on a shoe-string budget and change the timeframe from Post-War New York to modern day San Francisco (complete with the budding hippie rage), Coppola had other ideas. Where the studio wanted Danny Thomas (DANNY F*CKING THOMAS!!) to play the patriarchal Vito Corleone, and Ryan O’Neal to play the part of Michael Corleone, Coppola had other ideas. His idea, simply put, was to make the best film possible given it’s lofty subject. Instead of focusing on the violence and the corruption, he focuses on the familial aspects of the Corleone syndicate. And to do this, he had to put the best cast together that he could. (Enter Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, James Caan, John Cazale, Diane Keaton, Sterling Hayden and the famously-maligned-by-Paramount Al Pacino. How’s that for a cast?) It’s because of this choice that the film sucks us right in. There are NOT good people but they still come off as the protagonists and the lesser of all of the evils. It’s not for a lack of corruption and violence on their part. It’s because we see them as a family. Living their lives. Running their business. Doin’ what they gotta do. And because of Coppola’s deft touch and the commitment from his cast and crew, The Godfather is exactly what it is. Brilliant.
VIDEO ( * * * * 1/2)
Now, ignorant film lovers and tech junkies would love to point out that the quality of this film is not as striking and sleek and new-toy-shiny as, let’s say, TRANSFORMERS or G.I. JOE. They would be correct in this. After all, this film was released in 1972 and was shot in a more gritty Noir-ish style. However, for my money, the quality of the HD transfer is a revelation. Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 26Mbps), The Godfather looks absolutely stunning. What the people of MPI were able to do with the restoration process is mind boggling. It’s art. Coppola himself has said that this is the best representation of his film he had ever seen. Eclipsing even the first generation prints that hit the screen some 38 years ago. The dark and bronze look of the photography is still there. The original and beautiful film grain is ever present. Simply put, this transfer is a revelation.
AUDIO ( * * * * 1/2 )
Again, the aforementioned IFLs would probably turn their nose up to this TrueHD 5.1 audio track. There’s no incredible explosions or whizz-bang, zip zang ear porn to be heard here. Nope, just an immensely satisfying presentation of the original audio elements upgraded to delicious TrueHD. Now, for the pure fans who don’t like their soundtracks tinkered with, Paramount has kindly kept the original mono recording in tact and on this disc. Without sounding like a drooling fool, the audio presentation of this disc is almost as impressive as its video brethren. Stunning,
EXTRAS ( * * )
Now, I will get up off my knees now and give you some bad news. The only thing of interest is a single, albeit wonderful, audio track from our pal FFC. He gives an amazing amount of insight into every aspect of the filmmaking process and it is clear, right from the beginning, he did NOT enjoy making the film. Listen to the track and you will see why. If it’s extras that you desire and require, I wholeheartedly recommend the brilliant 4-Disc boxed set of all three films. (However, the bane of that set is the inclusion of the heinously-acted and poorly-written third film in the franchise.)
OVERALL ( * * * * 1/2)
In spite of the lack of extras, it’s impossible not to like this single-disc entry. The film and the technical achievements alone make this an offer you can’t refuse.*
*Oh, come on, you saw that line coming from a mile away….