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The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones

The Timeless Charm Of ‘The Godfather’

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Last month I was writing something or the other almost everyday but I could not post anything between the fifth of January and the 19th; for the better part of this time I did not have my broadband connection as I moved place and was not foresighted enough to put the request for a connection shift in advance.

Another reason was that I could not keep the focus of a post narrow and every now and then a tributary would come out and threaten to become bigger than the river; or branches taking over the tree. So I kept cutting these branches and saving them and towards the end of January I had so many of them that now my blog has enough to survive for three weeks with just a bit of wood polish here and there. One of the branches is an unexplored and new one for me: films and all sorts of things related to films.

Starting the 25th of February for three days Cinedarbaar and Instituto Cervantes are presenting Horror Cine Experience in New Delhi at Instituto Cervantes, Hanuman Road; the entry is free and it opens with ‘The Others’—starring Nicole Kidman. I haven’t seen any of the other movies on the three-day schedule but if they are close to ‘The Others’ then it sounds like an exciting and horrifying time.

At present I am more of a DVD-watcher and visits to the cinemas are rare. I generally look out for thrillers, drama and espionage movies and I rely on the IMDB rankings. If I have to go to the past there are many movies I’ve seen repeatedly following a long-break which comes from having seen them twice or thrice in the days after my having seen them first; The Godfather comes to my mind immediately; it continues to amaze me.

I had read the book a few times before I saw the movie and found both as unique pleasures. The wisdom of the Don, played to perfection by Marlon Brando; and the passing of the Corleone family’s control to the youngest son Michael, played superbly by a young Al Pacino, forms the core of the movie with the violence being the backdrop. James Cann is brilliant as Sonny, the hot-headed eldest son of Don Corleone. The ones who stand out in the support cast are Diane Keaton (Kay Adams), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen) and Richard Castellano (Clemenza).

Michael, who is not involved in the ‘family business’, puts his hand up to kill Sollozo and McCluskey—after the Don is shot and is badly injured but alive and the family decides, after another attempt to kill him at the hospital is foiled by Michael, that the only way forward for them is to take out ‘the Turk’ Sollozo and the Police captain McCluskey. With a painful swollen jaw Michael says that if somehow an arrangement can be made for him to get a gun at the place where they would take him for a meeting then he’ll kill them both. The family manages to find the place at the right time by tapping a police source; as McCluskey was rule-bound to leave his contact details when out of office.

During the chilling build-up Tom Hagen says to Michael, “You shouldn’t let that broken jaw influence you. McCluskey is a stupid man and it was business, not personal.” Michael had not said anything when his elder brother Sonny and the family’s ‘caporegimes’ were having a go at him; but he gives Hagen a reply. “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? My old man. The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personal. He took my going into the Marines personal. That’s what makes him great. He takes everything personal… And you know something? Accidents don’t happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult… Damn right, I take that broken jaw personal; damn right, I take Sollozzo trying to kill my father personal.”

Michael then learns the game of trust and deception when he is away in Sicily and then later when he comes back following the death of his brother Sonny. In the company of his father—the Don had formally retired and handed over the family business to Michael—he learns how to run the business of the Corleone family.

“Michael Corleone had taken precautions against every eventuality. His planning was faultless, his security impeccable. He was patient, hoping to use the full year to prepare. But he was not going to get his necessary year because fate itself took a stand against him, and in the most surprising fashion. For it was the Godfather, the great Don himself, who failed Michael Corleone.”

The Don died on a Sunday morning, working on his tomato vines; a task he loved because it brought back memories of his childhood in Sicily 60 years ago. The Sun was hot that day and he suffered a stroke and Michael and some men at the mall gate ran to the garden and carried him to the shade of the patio. With a great effort the Don opened his eyes to see his son once more. He smelled the garden, the yellow shield of light smote his eyes, and he whispered, “Life is so beautiful.” He died surrounded by men, holding the hand of the son he had most loved.

At the funeral Hagen asks Michael if has an idea about how his enemies are going to come after him. Michael tells Hagen that the Don had repeatedly told him that whoever sets up the meeting with Barzini would be the traitor. In essence, the Don teaches Michael that it takes a friend and an enemy collaborating together to bring a man down; in this case, the one to set him up for the other to gun him down. The background score is wonderful and the use of light and darkness has the touch of a genius. The Godfather is Francis Ford Coppola at his best.

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