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The Godfather

Screening on Film
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
With Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan.
US, 1972, 35mm, color, 172 min.
Print source: Constellation Center Collection at the Academy Film Archive

Gordon Willis’ influence on Francis Ford Coppola’s American masterpiece cannot be underestimated – Willis’ groundbreaking use of low-light photography and underexposed film, as well as his choice of sepia tones to denote period, have become common visual signifiers in cinema today. Unlike the work of some younger cinematographers, Willis’ contributions are never superfluous – they unfailingly strengthen the themes of the story, adding layers of meaning and depth –shooting Marlon Brando in shadow, for example, his eyes hooded to convey the darkness of his inner thoughts. By utilizing slight variations on a consistent style, Willis maintains a sense of cohesion as the film travels from New York to Los Angeles, to Sicily and back while subtly conjuring changes in scene and mood.

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Gordon Willis, the Man Who Shot The Godfather

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