This movie is a classic. The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the most influential films ever made and is consistently ranked as one of the 10 greatest films ever. I did not like it. From all the oily personalities to the ruthless criminality to the egregious corruption and backstabbing, the whole film left a bad feeling in my stomach. It is true that the actors nailed their roles to perfection and it felt like you were in the movie rather than watching it from afar, but everything about this movie felt nasty and gross and it perfectly reflected the failure of the American idea.
I respectfully give this movie a C- not because I think it’s a bad movie that was poorly directed and performed. To the contrary. The director Francis Ford Coppola brilliantly portrayed the cutthroat and unfulfilling environment of organized crime. Marlon Brando nailed his portrayal of Vito Corleone, giving off the boss man energy that would be necessary as the patriarch of a successful New York City crime family. But everything about this movie was gross and scummy and it is not the type of art reflected in an upward moving high civilization. It portrays a degenerating, Dionysian civilization. The movie essentially follows around a family of criminals and thugs who have no higher purpose for existence other than increasing the amount of wealth and power they have so they will have more space and freedom to spread their family filth. Even though Vito Corleone declines Sollozzo’s offer to invest in his narcotics business it wasn’t out of an anti-drug principle on the part of the Corleone’s. Later in the film Vito withdraws his opposition to the narcotics dealings of the other families. Vito just didn’t want to catch flack from powerful insiders who might be opposed to drug dealing. The Corleone crime family was a gang of middlebrow culture who took radical action over petty disputes against people who were ostensibly the same as them. I felt that Michael Corleone was a low impulse control lunatic with a bad case of short man syndrome looking for any excuse he could find to spread death and misery to others. One could argue that Michael Corleone had a Nietzschean will to power and was willing to do anything to leave his imprint on the world and give meaning to life. This is true. But to what end? To me it seemed that Michael was a bringer of darkness rather than light, a bringer of disease rather than health and his actions would lead to a world with more nihilism and misery, not less of it. The same is true for the other Corleone family members and the other crime families. Fredo Corleone was a friendly figure who was able to somewhat transcend the meaningless and vapid tribal disputes going on with his friendship to Moe Greene, however he was too pathetically weak and unambitious to do anything.
What stuck out to me after reflecting upon this film is the failure of the United States to produce a good and healthy country. You have coalitions of deranged criminals publicly murdering people in cold blood over petty disputes and insults and they are never held accountable for their destructive behavior because police, judges, politicians and journalists are willing to look the other way in exchange for a bribe. And this isn’t just a movie. It is heavily entrenched in reality. The United States is supposed to be considered a first world, developed country, but the levels of violence, corruption and distrust rival that of the third world. The fact that there wasn’t a reliable mechanism to prevent this stuff from happening is an abomination, but why wasn’t there a mechanism to prevent people like this from coming to America in the first place? Was it really a good idea to ship millions of people to America through Ellis island with little to no vetting process? Eastern Europeans, Southern Europeans, Italians, Irish people and Jews flooded into America through Ellis island and these were the people most commonly involved in organized crime, especially the Jews. Vito Corleone came to America through Ellis Island. And even though the Ku Klux Klan rose in popularity and the 1924 National Origins Act was passed thanks to the help of intellectuals like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard, the damage had already been done. But this was going to be the logical consequence of a country founded on a Christian, Puritan, Liberal ethic. It was just a matter of “when” and not “if”. “The Godfather” clearly shows the failures of American Liberalism which have allowed hostile, degenerate, destructive people to establish a foothold here in this country and there is nothing we can do about it because they have a God given right to freedom guaranteed in our Constitution. The freedom to spread their awfulness.