The Godfather Part II
(United States, 1974)
Since the 1970s, there has been a healthy debate among movie-lovers about which is the better movie: The Godfather or its first sequel? (I don't know anyone who considers Part III to be the best of the trilogy.) Some would argue that it's impossible to separate Part I and Part II, but they were made individually and there was a two year gap between their releases. While it is possible to watch The Godfather as a stand-alone motion picture, the same cannot really be said about Part II, which needs the background of the original to attain its full power. Of course, the best way to proceed is to watch both movies, since the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. The aspect of The Godfather Part II that leads me to place it somewhat below The Godfather on my list of all-time films are the shifts back-and-forth between the 1910s and the 1950s. I was always much more interested in the Pacino scenes than the De Niro ones, and occasionally found the time-jumps to be distracting. Whenever the film moved back to Vito's story, I waited somewhat impatiently for events to shift back to Michael. (It's worth noting that this non-linear approach is one of the reasons why many consider The Godfather Part II to be the superior film.) Ultimately, that's a pretty small quibble about an undeniable masterpiece. This is Francis Ford Coppola's second greatest film and one of the best to emerge from the fruitful decade of the 1970s.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
The Godfather Part II is a more ambitious production than the original since it attempts not only to tell a pair of completely disconnected stories, but to do so in parallel. The less time consuming of the two presents the early life of Vito Corleone (played by Robert DeNiro) in Sicily and New York, and shows how he came into power. The other tale picks up approximately a decade after the conclusion of The Godfather, and shows the means by which Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), now secure in his position, attempts to expand the family empire into Las Vegas and Cuba. The Corleones no longer live in New York. They have moved to Nevada where they are amassing influence with the nebulous goal of some day becoming "legitimate." But the affairs of the East Coast are about to interfere as Frankie Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo) arrives to request the don's acquiescence to a hit. Michael cannot agree because such a killing would ruin certain business dealings currently in progress with the powerful and influential Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg). Plot and counterplot develop, and Michael becomes the focal point of a web of betrayal and deceit, turned against by those he had sought to protect. Assassination attempts and government probes target Michael, but he fights back using every scintilla of ingenuity he possesses and sacrificing much of his humanity in the process.
A companion piece in the truest sense of the term, The Godfather Part II garnered as much adulation as its predecessor, if not more. Receiving twelve Academy Award nominations, and again winning Best Picture (and this time Best Director for Coppola as well), the second installment has been rightfully hailed as the best sequel of all time. The traditional elements of the Tragedy introduced in The Godfather reach their maturity in Part II. Primarily due to the scope of events, Part II is not as tightly-scripted as Part I. Combined, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II represent the apex of American movie-making and the ultimate gangster story. Few sequels have expanded upon the original with the faithfulness and detail of this one. Beneath the surface veneer of an ethnic period piece, The Godfather is not so much about crime lords as it is about prices paid in the currency of the soul for decisions made and avoided. It is that quality which establishes this saga as timeless.
Click Here (will exit ReelViews)