“Godfather” Reunion at Tribeca 2017


From left to right, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Francis Ford Coppola, James Caan, Al Pacino and Talia Shire at the “Godfather Reunion” at Radio City Music Hall, as part of the Tribeca Film Festival, 2017

April 30, 2017.  On Saturday, April 29, the Tribeca Film Festival presented an incredible historical event at Radio City Music Hall. “The Godfather” (1972) and “The Godfather: Part II” (1974) were screened, followed by a reunion Q & A with the films’ director Francis Ford Coppola, actors Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton and Talia Shire (no relation, but I was thrilled to see my tickets next to hers at the “will call” window). The talk was moderated by movie director Taylor Hackford. The event began at 1:00 and went until about 9:30.

As for having to sit through two movies with a combined running time of just over six hours, which I had already seen multiple times, I was asked if I really wanted to embark on this endeavor. My response was “yes.” I find it interesting how a double standard seems to be applied when it comes to film, as opposed to other art forms. For example, if I was a jazz enthusiast and wanted to listen to a favorite album, it is unlikely that anyone would ask me if I really wanted to hear that album again. I realize that film requires a bigger time investment than music. However, I find that whenever I am tempted to dismiss a film by saying, “Oh, I’ve seen that movie a hundred times,” but see it anyway, that is when I truly discover and appreciate it. “The Godfather” event was no exception.

In addition, what an opportunity to see a movie in Radio City Music Hall. Digital restorations of both movies were shown and they were stunning. Hearing the reactions of an audience of around six thousand brought out nuances in the films that I had not previously noticed. Famous lines such as, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse,” were met with applause and appreciative laughter.

After the movies, Coppola and cast took the stage to thunderous applause and a, well deserved, standing ovation. The Q & A was wide ranging.

Pacino said he had to audition countless times for the iconic role of Michael Corleone. He joked that he tested for the part even after he had it. Pacino pointed out that he actually wanted the role of Sonny, played by James Caan. The studio, Paramount, thought Pacino was too short. Coppola said that in order to show the studio that Pacino had the acting chops to play Michael, he moved one of Pacino’s most dramatic scenes, in which Michael guns down two men in a restaurant, up front in the shooting schedule. That way the Paramount brass saw how strong Pacino’s performance was and did not replace him. Pacino said that, being a theatre actor, he was not used to film acting and thought this was going to be the worst movie ever made. He said he learned that one cannot evaluate a film performance by watching dailies (uncut footage). Pacino said that one has to see an edited sequence to judge a performance.  

Coppola talked of his own concern about being replaced, as director.  When told that he would be fired on the upcoming weekend he said that he simply fired those who were going to fire him, to much laughter from the audience.

Coppola talked about the film’s famous baptism scene in which a baby’s baptism is intercut with various gangland murders being committed simultaneously. He explained that the sequence was a screen writing device that conveyed 40 pages of the novel in a short amount of time.

Coppola also praised the performance of the late Al Lettieri as the villain Solozzo. He called Lettieri an “unsung hero,” explaining that a good villain made the story work better.

Hackford pointed out that both Marlon Brando and De Niro each won Oscars for playing Don Corleone – Brando for playing the older Don in “The Godfather” and De Niro for playing the Don as a younger man in “The Godfather: Part II.” Hackford also said that “The Godfather”was revolutionary for having Italian actors play Italians.  He said that, as a result, the film “reeks of authenticity.”

Coppola said that seeing the film again was very emotional. Keaton said that she saw the film again, only recently, for the first time in 30 years. She said, to much laughter, that “Everything was astonishing, and on a sucky computer.” She also said that every choice Coppola had made was great.  

During the evening, Hackford said that he intended to keep the discussion going for as long as possible due to the historic nature of the event.  Eventually though he said he was “getting the hook.”  The evening ended with audience members shouting out questions from the nearest and farthest reaches of the cavernous Radio City Music Hall.  Coppola graciously answered some of the questions.  The evening ended with another rousing round of applause and a standing ovation.



About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on May 2, 2017, in Classics, Feature Articles, Personal Appearances, Tribeca Film Festival 2017 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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