Thinking way too hard about the aesthetics of ‘The Godfather’ while super high

Thinking way too hard about the aesthetics of ‘The Godfather’ while super high

For the most part, the weed hasn't been working lately.

Mostly this has to do with the mordant state of the country (Trump), but still, on a recent Sunday night I found myself smoking a bowl (pearl-clutchers: See editor's note, end of story) and watching The Godfather for the umpteenth time in my life. The caustic, radically pragmatic cynicism of the 1972 American classic helped this high. Plus the movie has a distracted quality – it totally allows tangents and ugly mug-charming character actors (John Marley! Joe Spinnell! Abe Vigoda! Lenny Montana!) to steal it away for a few moments. It is convivial in that way.

The movie also has a stoney glow to it during the daytime shots, and this Rembrandt-y void-gazing darkness to it elsewhere – nice for watching while weeded. And Marlon Brando as extrasensory old-ass Vito Corleone, handling a cat like it's a Slinky in the first scene and shuffling around like a mumbling, messy-haired weirdo in chill-out clothes up until he croaks makes him a kind of unofficial, unflappable hero of the high, don't it?

So with some help from the high, the movie got me giggling. There's a moment where a slow dissolve takes us from a close-up of Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone in bed, post-assassination attempt, to a wide shot of the Sicilian countryside, where Al Pacino's Michael Corleone is hiding out for a while after icing Sollozzo and McCluskey in retaliation for his pops getting popped.

The dissolve is a one-quarter-clever matching of two images: The pillows behind the Don loosely line up with the mountains of the landscape and a tree lines up closely with the Don's mustache and for a second they all occupy the same space so that Brando's a silly face in the sky and his mustache is a bunch of greenery. I rewound it a few times and watched it happen again and again, LOL-ing.

Then I took a screenshot of it. Then I tweeted the screenshot with the comment, "My fave part of The Godfather is when his mustache turns into a tree." I didn't think much about it. A few hours later, it had scooped up about 200 retweets and nearly 400 likes. About a week later, it had nearly 3,000 retweets and over 7,000 likes.

I don't entirely understand why this happened. I try real hard not to think about why people enjoy the things I put on the internet and just appreciate that they appreciate things. Still, I certainly had more interesting things to point out about The Godfather while I was high than "yo dawg, tree mustache LMAO." But I also get a kick out of kicking at the canon, even when it's a movie I like quite a bit and find deeply moving like this one (Luca Brasi speaking to Vito at the beginning makes me tear up every time), so I tweeted that out, I guess. If any movie could afford to get zinged, it's The Godfather, right?

Most people got the joke: "#OnePerfectShot," someone tweeted with a smirk; another responded with, "IT'S THE CIRCLE OF LIFE," invoking The Lion King; another quipped, "directed by David Lynch"; a work colleague texted me, "I think that photo captures the liminal space where the tree reflects both the Don's mortality and his role as the Corleone family's roots so maybe the entirety of Twitter was responding to the idea of death and family in Trump's America," then in another text, joked, "I Vox'd it."

Others didn't get the joke. The internet is where all the people that don't get it gather and get loud. Many thought I was making some far less entertaining and way more predictable point about how well-conceived this movie is down to every shot, even a dissolve. One dude even tweeted, "Perfect example of the Match Cut" along with a link to the Wikipedia entry for "Match Cut."

This match dissolve, however, is very, very dumb. It might literally be the only poor aesthetic decision in the whole movie. It signifies very little and even if it "says" this or that about tradition and blah blah blah, it is so silly – the sole misstep in an otherwise rather perfect piece of pop cinema.

Jonathan Rosenbaum – who wrote seminal stoner cinema essay "What Dope Does to the Movies," by the way – says The Godfather is "a generic gangster film with arthouse trimmings," which he intends to be a sick burn I guess, but something that's a little smart and a little dumb is ideal, if you ask me, a grown man who reviews pot for money.

Anyway, here is a dump of some of the a-little-smart, Godfather-on-weed observations I had that weekend:

I appreciate how The Godfather challenges dedication to family (over country, even) but also finds solace in domesticity and, tied to that, is always subtly, sympathetically nodding at its women characters, forgotten, ignored, or dismissed as "crazy." I like how it hints that it's Michael's time in World War II that prepares him for the role of cruel mafia boss. It acknowledges that the mob targeted black neighborhoods when it came to selling narcotics; it explores "whiteness" and unpacks how European-Americans get to be white and is, in its own way, a savvy, sometimes very funny critique of WASPs that works nicely with Melvin Van Peebles' Watermelon Man, released two years earlier; it's essentially a tragic investigation of the immigrant experience and what immigrants give up to come here – very important as we continue enduring Donald Trump's ethnonationalist hollering; and it suggests that the only difference between the mafia and established above-ground clusters of power such as the state/federal government or the police is how differently they do the same dirt.

Yeah, I guess the weed worked that night.

Editor's note: Brandon Soderberg lives in Baltimore, where possession of marijuana for personal consumption was decriminalized in 2014. He writes about art, politics and, yes, weed for Baltimore City Paper.

Scroll to read more Movie Reviews articles


Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.