The Godfather Epic, also known as The Godfather Saga, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather: The Complete Epic 1901-1959 and Do You Have 7 Hours You Need to Kill?, is the smashing together of the first two Godfather films, re-edited to appear in chronological order, and with just around forty minutes’ worth of deleted scenes restored to it. It also carries the subtitle, “A Novel for Television” which is actually pretty apt, in that the restoration of the deleted scenes provide a deeper, more novelistic investment into the goings-on. It works in this format as an interesting experiment, and I feel like every big fan of The Godfather should do this once, to dedicate 7 hours to watching the damned saga, because it really is a truly different way to view the story, in a way you’ve never seen before, but it’s not the best format to watch the films in. Obviously, their original formats, as two separate films, with excess fat and deleted scenes, trimmed, in order to have the tightest versions of the story possible, but watching The Godfather Epic and dedicating a length of time that amounts to what’s pretty much an entire work shift is a fun way to spend a lazy Sunday.
Instead of watching Super Bowl LI, my girlfriend and I watched The Godfather Epic and it was an endurance test after a bit. I think my state of mind went something like this:
10:00 a.m. – Film starts
10:30 a.m. – I’m actually enjoying the way the film is structured now. As much as I loved The Godfather II, I thought the back-and-forth between timelines was more interesting than functional. The structure worked in the novel, but not so much for a movie.
11:30 a.m. – Hey, Godfather 1 is beginning already! That wasn’t so bad! I can do this.
12:00 p.m. – I can’t tell, am I getting hungry because I’m legitimately hungry, or because of all the delicious-looking food in this movie? Okay, I’m going to take an intermission once Michael is in Siciliy.
2:00 p.m. – Yay! Michael is in Sicily!
2:00 to 3:00 p.m. was spent calling the pizza place, walking to the pizza place, walking back home, and then eating the pizza at home.
4:30 p.m. – Alright, the 1950s portions of the Godfather 2 is beginning. I’m on the home stretch.
6:00 p.m. – Oh, my god, how much time is left on this goddamned thing?! Oh, only one more hour? I can do that.
7:00 p.m. – I…. need a nap.
In short, this was a learning experience. If I ever do The Godfather Epic again, which I might in about 15 years or so, I’m going to have way, way more snacks. Don’t get me wrong, the pizza that I had was delicious and I wish I had some more of it right now, but I think having constant access to snacks, and not just two separate meals, would have been more ideal. I’d also probably rather do a Saturday instead of a Sunday so that I don’t constantly have work in the back of my mind again. Sunday Dread, she is a nagging bitch-goddess.
Watching parts I and II together (or even back-to-back) was something I’d never done before and it was interesting to see the aesthetic difference between the two movies. Godfather tells its scenes in a very nontraditional way. A lot of scenes or important developments, is told by a by a stationary camera that had a good view and just hangs out until all of the action is done—consider the scene where Sonny kicks the shit out of his sister’s husband… the camera just sort of hangs out and waits for him to be done. Godfather II is no less cinematographically gorgeous (probably, actually, moreso with its lush amber hues), but a lot of how it’s edited is much more traditional, with the combination of a master shot and reversals, whereas a lot of scenes in the first movie pretty much rely only on a master shot, with no need for close-ups for added dramatic emphasis.
The thing that I thought of most when watching the Epic was that when the original had come out in 1972, with a budget of $6 million, it grossed $133 million domestically. At the time, that was a phenomenal success, which would only later be bested by Jaws and then Star Wars. If The Godfather had been the highest grossing out of the three defining blockbuster successes of the 1970s by the so-called “Film Brats” who knows what cinema would be like today? Like, instead of the “must-see” movies of the summer being superhero or action flicks, would they instead be melodramas inspired by Greek tragedies? Not that I’m opposed to mindless entertainment—often, I love the escapism—but a part of me can’t help but think that maybe if The Godfather were releases today, it would get lots of praise but no one would go see the damn thing. Can you imagine an audience of today sitting through a three-hour movie in record numbers? Something like The Godfather would almost surely have to be a TV miniseries today.