I had an eye opening conversation with someone on Twitter the other week. Alex (aka @AlexFortyNine) asked for recommendations of what he should be watching and he specified that he wanted suggestions that were not The Wire or The Godfather. Now, I gently asked why not these two pieces of exceptional art and he firmly but politely answered something along the lines of, and I paraphrase: “The Wire is boring and as for The Godfather, I don’t want to watch anything in black and white.”
Now, this answer got me a bit emotional. In my heart I understand why The Wire didn’t work for him, I have always said that the slow pace and the uncompromising use of urban language can be a huge barrier for most viewers, but it was The Godfather comment that disheartened me.
I interpreted that by saying he didn’t want to watch The Godfather because it was in ‘black and white’, what he actually meant was that he didn’t want to watch it because it is an old film. This made me realise that many people may feel the same way, but they are missing an utterly brilliant piece of work that has had a direct influence on other movies and television shows that are popular today.
If I had to sell The Godfather to the Youf of today, I’d describe it as the father of Breaking Bad. The evolution of the film’s primary character, Michael Corleone, is almost identical to that of Walter White – and in my opinion, it is more compelling.
What Breaking Bad does in the space of 5 seasons, The Godfather manages in three hours without losing any sense of narrative or character depth. To watch Michael Corleone, a decorated World War 2 veteran who at the beginning of the film resolves to stay away from the ‘family business’, turn into a monster is a testament to the film’s story telling genius.
The iconic scene in the restaurant between Michael, Sollozzo ( a rival gangster) and McCluskey ( a corrupt police chief) is where the similarities are most stark, as it echoes the basement scenes of Breaking Bad’s first season. Again, what The Godfather manages to covey in a short period of time compared to Breaking Bad is utterly masterful – you can see Michael Corleone’s anger, fear and doubt without him barely uttering a word. In this one scene, you can see the character change before your eyes, all to protect his family.
My basic point is this – if you like Breaking Bad there is a good chance that you will absolutely love The Godfather. It breaks my heart that I have to compare such an important film to a television show that wouldn’t exist if not for the Francis Ford Coppola classic – but there is no getting around the fact that it is a very old film. That age can sometimes deter people from discovering its brilliance.