Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Latest Godfather

When I go see a movie, I'm always looking for "The Godfather," and I'm nearly always disappointed. But this season, a modern "Godfather" has arisen, and it is "The Good Shepherd." It's dark and brooding and full of men doing important man things that they presume women would never understand, in the service of some greater cause that kind of loses focus the more you think about it; and you can't follow the plot at all, which is a quality I admire actually, because it means the characters are so well mired down in their dismal scenes that they just don't have a free hand to help the audience. It's almost as if Robert DeNiro directed it and Francis Coppola produced it. If we audience members can't keep up, then that's just tough nuggies, and maybe we should take our popcorn tubs over to see Ben Stiller instead. But we're the thinking movie goers at Southpointe with an "e," so we stay put and keep trying.

It's NOT as if most of the actors starred in it. They are all having to overcome their associations with youth, innocence, frivolity, sensuality, sexuality, action figures. They bury their sexy faces under gray hair, hat brims, gloomy lighting, inner hurt from their real lives off the red carpet. Angelina Jolie is fantastic as a Diane Keaton with much more sexual aggression -- after all, movies need to show themselves to have progressed since 1972. Matt Damon starts out as Matt Damon in boarding school and could be said to grow to become Al Pacino, except really, as a family man, he makes Al Pacino look like Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life." By the end, a mere cut to a shot of his figure hunched in trenchcoat and hat is rather unnerving. John Turturro is Robert Duvall with no heart in his loyalty, so you wouldn't really want him around as your sidekick. Turturro wouldn't have bothered to pay off someone to kill the horse -- he just horse-whips his opponent directly.

Indeed, comparing the two movies, it seems that crime families have far more loyalty, good times, and care for their own kind than the CIA. which, I suppose, is to be expected, since crime families need to survive in the private sector, and everyone knows that government organizations are inherently dysfunctional.

Also there is Cuba and the revolution, and lots of family gatherings juxtaposed with dirty machinations.

Robert DeNiro manages to step outside of his own Godfather persona to reprise the Devil from "Angel Heart," always appearing seated, with slicked back hair, giving counsel to others who are doing most of the work.

Anyway, the upshot is, great movie, if you don't mind some personal violence and a constant sort of sick tension and not knowing what's going on.

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