The Corleone Chronicles: Revisiting “The Godfather” Films as Trilogy, written by Pheobe Poon examines the structure of the narrative of each of the three Godfather movies, what separated these films from other gangster films of the time as well as the legacy that the three movies have left behind.
She starts her analysis of the films by taking a look at their typical narrative structure. Her examination leads her to break the films in four different acts, exposition (prologue), disruption (conflict), transition (bridge), to restoration (conclusion). The film, like other gangster films share some similar motifs, centered around the search or attempt to attain the American Dream through various illegal acts. In this way, in “The Godfather”, Michael Corleone’s character, although calculating and exacting, is transformed into a tragic hero. In this way films are not meant to glorify the gangster, but elicit an emotional response through an understandingof the charaters.
What Poon suggests sets “The Godfather” apart from other movies of its genre is its strong concentration on the family. Vito Corleone although calculating and at times barbaric is not simply portrayed as such. Rather because of the emphasis on the organization as a family, he is seen as the patriarch, the father figure instead of simply the boss. Furthermore, the characters, especially Michael and Vito are not merely acting out of revenge or avarice, but rather are convinced of the necessity of a strict moral code. This moral code comes through a history of ethnicity, being Sicilian. This ethnicity and concentration in a family allow for these characters to become protagonist as the audience can identify with some of their beliefs even if they can’t identify with some of the actions.
This article, written by Phoebe Poon, looks back at the overall success of The Godfather trilogy. The purpose of this article is to analyze the films as a whole as well as the way in which The Godfather established itself from other gangster films of the era.
Poon argues that although the movie is often characterized as a gangster film, it holds very key differences which set it apart from others. In the initial part of the article, she analyzes the trilogy and breaks each individual film into four sections. This pattern is repeated in all three movies and provides continuity throughout the trilogy, which in itself helps to differentiate it from other gangster films.
Poon goes on to address the issue of “family” that is found throughout the trilogy. This aspect of family helps to distinguish The Godfather from other crime films, as in most of these films; the protagonist is surrounded by hired mercenaries. However, the men working with Don Vito are trusted family members, creating a deeper and more meaningful bond between them. She goes on to state that, “the term gangster to the don would insult his style of leadership, which is vastly superior” to other gangsters.
Other important characteristics of the film helped differentiate this trilogy from other films. Poon mentions the attention to the culture of the Italians as important. Coppola does not portray the Corleones with stereotypical characteristics of Italians. Rather, he adds a degree of authenticity by accurately portraying Sicilian culture.
The differences that this essay highlights help to explain the reasons why The Godfather is critically acclaimed. The detail and depth that this film shows helps to separate it from other gangster genre films, and puts it in its own class.