The Godfather and its first sequel are two of the very few films when, if I click on them with the remote, I absolutely HAVE to watch. (The others are All the President’s Men, the original Andromeda Strain, Network, M*A*S*H, Blues Brothers and Animal House.)
One of the Godfather’s themes, plastered on the screen several times over so that the point is very obviously made, is that what the Family does is not personal — it’s business.
Always and only business.
If there is a flaw with The Godfather Parts I and II, it is that creed. And it is also the failure of Francis Ford Coppolla and Mario Puzo that generations of moviegoers and Godfather fans took them seriously.
It is perhaps the most ironic aspect of the Godfather films that, in the end, it’s all personal — and it is that point that most viewers don’t get.
It’s irony. And it was spelled out more clearly — and much less ironically — in the original novel by Puzo:
“You shouldn’t let that broken jaw influence you,” Hagen said. “McCluskey is a stupid man and it was business, not personal.”
For the second time he saw Michael Corleone’s face freeze into a mask that resembled uncannily the Don’s. “Tom, don’t let anybody kid you. It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it’s personal as hell. You know where I learned that from? The Don. My old man. The Godfather.”
The point, I guess, that I’m trying to make, using literary terms like irony and . . . um, irony . . . is that millions of people still watching the Godfather movies are missing the point. The clues about the irony of the whole situation were not made adequately. As much as the characters/filmmakers SAY it’s all business, it ain’t. It never was. And most of us never got any of the extremely subtle irony.
It’s all about . . .
Read the book. It ain’t literature. It’s a story. It’s a slice of life. It’s make believe. It’s real.
It’s an offer you can’t refuse.