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Half a century ago, The Godfather came to us

 

"The Godfather" stills, old Godfather Don Corleone


  In March of this year, director Francis Ford Coppola received a tribute for his 83rd birthday - he left his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

  This year coincides with the 50th anniversary of the premiere of The Godfather. In 1972, the film "The Godfather" directed by Coppola turned out, set a box office record of 57,000 US dollars on the first day of its premiere, and finally raked in 250 million US dollars worldwide, becoming the first film in film history with an average single-day box office exceeding one million US dollars. movie of.

  The contemporary Hollywood genius director Kubrick praised "The Godfather". After watching it repeatedly for 10 times, he fully confirmed that "The Godfather" is worthy of being a great film history classic.

  With the passage of time, many young viewers who have not seen "The Godfather" may find it difficult to understand just based on the introduction and quick-view videos. Such a gangster movie, which is classified as "plot/crime type" on Douban, will be released in its release. After 50 years, why can it achieve a high score of over 9.3 and still win countless favors, which resonates from generation to generation.


On March 21, 2022, "The Godfather" director Coppola "remains a star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame


  In fact, it would be biased to only refer to "The Godfather" as a gangster movie. Dai Jinhua, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy, regards "The Godfather" as a fable about American society and capitalism; while Jiang Wen believes that "The Godfather" is filmed with the gangster as a family, and the Godfather as a complaining woman. The essence of this film is It is not much different from "Home", "Spring" and "Autumn".

  What is interesting is that, since the preparation of a film like "The Godfather", whether it is the original author, director, starring actor or production company, they have not treated "The Godfather" in the face of it. Coppola even said it. I don't want to direct this pile of trashy angry words.

  But it was by various coincidences that Coppola and other main creators produced "The Godfather", a classic that only had the opportunity to be shot in that era. This experience itself is also a legend in the history of human cinema.

  "Crush" makes an immortal legend

  As a novel adaptation of a movie, the legend of "The Godfather" has to start with the author Mario Puzo.

  Born in New York in 1920, he is Italian-American.

  In the 1960s, the middle-aged Puzo was living a difficult life, and his serious literary works "Black Arena" and "Lucky Pilgrim" won him industry praise, but sales were worrying. With $20,000 in debt and living expenses for his five children, Puzo is in desperate need of money to pay off his debts.

  At this time, he remembered the legend of Mafia (Mafia) passed down in the mouths of his parents. Thinking about the gangsters who forced him to ask for gambling debts, Puzo had an idea, and after consulting a lot of information, he wrote the outline of the novel.

  After being rejected by 8 publishers in succession, Puzo finally met a noble person: In March 1968, Paramount Pictures bought the adaptation rights of Puzo's unfinished novel at an ultra-low price of $12,500.


The premiere of "The Godfather" by Mario Puzo


Don Corleone, the old godfather played by Marlon Brando


  Jiang Wen believes that "The Godfather" is to film the gangster as a family, and to play the godfather as a grudge.


  In 1969, Puzo's new book, The Godfather, was published, which immediately became the number one bestseller on the New York Times list. At that time, Paramount, which held the adaptation copyright, was worried about the Waterloo of its own movie box office, and was unwilling to invest a high cost for a novel - after all, novels and movies are completely different genres, and failed adaptation cases abound. .

  At the end of the year, Paramount gave "The Godfather" a mere $2 million for a low-budget gangster movie. Such a low production cost naturally cannot attract superstars. The film adaptation of "The Godfather" can also be called a gathering of frustrated people.

  The first is the starring. For the role of the old godfather Don Corleone, Marlon Brando is not the film's favorite candidate. Although his acting skills and appearance are impeccable, his arrogant studio style has caused headaches for major manufacturers. He was also once seen as box office poison.

  For this reason, Paramount even made an almost humiliating offer to make Brando refuse to play. But under the desperate insistence of director Coppola, Brando not only won the role, but also won a golden statue with his wonderful performance.

  Then there's the director. A total of 12 directors had turned down Paramount's olive branch before Coppola. As a last resort, Paramount turned its attention to the little-known Coppola. In Paramount's view, young Italian directors like Coppola are not only cheap, but also easier to control.

  But Coppola was reluctant to take on such a job. In his opinion, the novel of "The Godfather" is extremely crude: "They want me to direct this pile of rubbish, I won't do it, I want to make art films." It's just that Coppola has no choice and is heavily in debt. He had to bow his head to the filmmaker and picked up the guide tube of "The Godfather".

  Due to the different production concepts, Coppola had constant disputes with the film crew throughout the shooting process, and the studio was full of humiliation and abuse. With Coppola and Brando threatening a strike, Paramount made an additional $4 million investment, which was a drop in the bucket in the face of the grand era drama of "The Godfather."

  As a last resort, Coppola even let his own sister participate in the important role of Connie in the movie at a low price. In the beginning of "The Godfather", which is enough to go into film history, a funeral home owner recounts the injustice he suffered. The actor who plays the role, Salvatore Corsitto, is an authentic Italian Sicilian. His job is a hairdresser. Acting in movies is just a whim.

  With Coppola's tacit approval, the main creators gradually "released themselves", and a large number of improvisations have achieved unexpected results. When the old godfather was talking to the guests who came to ask for help, he was teasing a cat in his arms. In fact, the cat was not arranged by the director. It was Brando who happened to see it during filming, so he picked it up. I never thought that such improvisation would make the role of the godfather more realistic.


  Even in the relatively well-funded "The Godfather 2", there is no shortage of tricks. In the interview, Coppola tried hard to persuade other filmmakers to take a scene of the main character receiving a phone call at night, but the mouth must be hidden in the dark, because in this case, the dialogue can be matched later, and then put in the movie Where there is a need, a certain explanation of the plot will be given, without being overwhelmed.

A box office miracle shaped by violence


  Nowadays, when later generations analyze the reasons for the success of "The Godfather", they often start from the aspects of artistic value, zeitgeist, and the talent of the main creator. But if you turn the clock back to 1972, you have to ask what kind of fascination can make "The Godfather" sell more than $250 million at the global box office in an era when each movie ticket did not exceed $5?

  Most of the audience at that time would answer with one word: violence.

  In Paramount's view, Coppola is very good at dealing with character relationships, but the depiction of violence is too shy. Therefore, in order to show the image of gang violence, Paramount deliberately cut out some of the funds and prepared to hire another director to shoot violent scenes that Coppola was not good at.

  This move was unanimously opposed by the star. But Coppola also had to take a step back and, according to his own style, shoot some violent scenes that are not just to stimulate the audience's adrenalin.



"The Godfather" stills: horse head on the bed, lively and happy Italian wedding


  The interweaving of two different styles of violence creates the unique charm of "The Godfather".

  Director Lu Chuan believes that in "The Godfather", the implicit and restrained handling of violent scenes and the intuitive and brutal handling of violent scenes are presented to the audience at the same time, so harmonious and unified, and give unprecedented strength and depth to the social nature of the film.

  According to statistics, there are a total of 18 violent scenes in "The Godfather", accounting for more than 11% of the total time. Among them, there are cruel scenes that directly show violence, and there are scenes that indirectly reflect the bloody methods of gangsters through atmosphere rendering. The presentation form of these pictures is also very suitable for the characters they show.

  For example, the godfather's enemy Solozzo is a ruthless madman who does not follow the rules of the gang. The violent scene in which he appeared was a close-up of a real knife and a real gun: I saw him laughing wildly, while pressing the enemy's hands, and then a close-up of the opponent's palm nailed to the table by a knife, followed by a close-up, It was the terrifying image of the man being restrained by the rope and his eyes popping out.

  Unlike Sollozzo, the old godfather looked more like a gentleman. He pays attention to "stealing is also right", does not like killing people but prefers to be punished, and almost never shoots directly at others. The violent method he adopted was not direct physical injury, but more like intimidation, which not only avoided the trouble caused by confrontation, but also caused the victim to be intimidated by its threat and had to submit.

  For example, in order to warn the uncooperative film and television tycoon, the old godfather did not directly act rough, but sent someone to slaughter the latter's beloved horse and put the horse's head on his bed. The audience's eyes followed the poor tycoon. When he touched the bloody horse's head, the horror and shock brought by the violence of the old godfather were self-evident.

  Interestingly, in order to better show the horror of this scene, Coppola deliberately found a horse that had just been slaughtered in New Jersey, and the head of the horse was cut off and transported to the filming site. The actor didn't know in advance, and when he realized it was a real horse head and not a prop, his shock reaction on the screen even went beyond the performance itself and made the audience more empathetic.

The sense of ritual evokes the lament of rise and fall


  The extreme violence has brought countless audiences into the theater, but in the seemingly insolent story, the main creator's thoughts on the relationship between personal destiny and the times are hidden. The frequent ceremonies, celebrations and festivals in the film are not only the main body of this kind of thinking, but also add an epic sense of heaviness to the film.

  In Chinese classical literature, festivals or banquets with a strong sense of ritual are often the best scenes to demonstrate and witness the rise and fall; the flowers on the feast are decorated with brocade and the fire is cooked with oil, which contrasts with the loneliness of the decline, and the feeling of sigh However, students are born - this is why in the classical novel "Jin Ping Mei", the author took the trouble to write successively the Qingming Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Zhongyuan Festival and other festivals.

  Excellent works have the same internal logic, and the same is true of "The Godfather". In the trilogy, the appearance of almost every grand ceremony is accompanied by sin. The sense of ritual at the grand ceremony provides the director with enough space to display montage techniques. Behind everything hides the best proof of sin".


In 1971, Manhattan, New York, the film "Godfather" filming set


  The film adaptation of "The Godfather" can also be called a gathering of frustrated people.


  The story of "The Godfather" begins with the old godfather's daughter's wedding, which is also the most distinctive feature of the "Godfather" series - celebrations and funerals are important nodes and footnotes in the development of the story.

  In the opening 30 minutes, one side is a lively and happy Italian wedding, and the other side is an indescribable underground activity, symbolizing the two elements that the godfather strives to maintain: family and business.

  In the latter two, it is also a party, and the details are different, which is very worth pondering. Different from the traditional Italian marriage customs in "The Godfather 1", in "The Godfather 2", although the master wants the musicians to play Italian-style music, the musicians say no, which also implies that the Corleone family is gradually Americanized. .

  In "The Godfather 3", Fang Ting sang to Connie affectionately again, making people dream back to "The Godfather 1". But in the corner, Mike Corleone, the second-generation godfather, has grown old, as if reminding the audience that times have changed.

  If a beautiful wedding shows the bright side of the mafia world, a solemn funeral is a reflection of the dark side. In "The Godfather 2", the old godfather was only 9 years old at the time, and his father was killed for offending the mafia.

  On the way to the funeral, Vito's brother, who threatened to avenge his father, was shot and killed in front of everyone's eyes; his mother also paid the price of her life to cover Vito's departure. With the help of the locals, Vito escaped from Sicily and came to the United States, which is the follow-up story. And this funeral is more like an interpretation of the gangster story: violence, family and death.

  Of course, in the "Godfather" series, the most ritualistic is the process of "coronation" of three generations of godfathers. In "The Godfather 2", when the old godfather Vito shot and killed Fanucci, the street celebrations full of religious significance were edited in parallel; in "The Godfather 1", the second-generation godfather helped the godson baptize the ceremony, which mixed the blood washing of the five families. One side is the cruelest blood, and the other is the purest holy water; and in "The Godfather 3", opera and killing appeared at the same time, and as the opera reached its climax, the killing gradually became crazy.

  The strong sense of ritual also endows the "Godfather" series with an unprecedented sense of fate. At the end of the "Godfather" series, Mike, who was lonely in his later years, wondered if he would remember the promise he made to Kate at the wedding at the beginning: "I'm not interested in family affairs."

  At this time, Mike wanted to protect only his family and Kate. It's a pity that the more one tries to protect something, the easier it is to shatter, to destruction, and that's the tragic core of the story that runs through The Godfather.

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