Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Godfather, Part II

Most sequels only hope to shed a fraction of the light on them as the film that came before it. Of just about any sequel, The Godfather Part II comes closest.

Al Pacino stars as Michael Corleone, head of the Corleone family; John Cazale, as Michael’s older brother; Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, Michael’s concierge; Diane Keaton is Michael’s wife, Kay Corleone; Robert DeNiro is the young Vito Corleone; Talia Shire Michael’s sister, Lee Strasberg is longtime family friend, Hyman Roth; and Michael Gazzo plays Frankie Pentangeli, successor to Clemenza’s territory in New York City.

The second films picks up years after the first film, in Lake Tahoe at Michael’s son’s first communion.

The extremely very risky move was to intercut the story of young Vito Corleone in with the continuing events of his son, Michael.

It’s a point of contention even between film buffs as to which film is better. The original Godfather, or the sequel. I’m of two minds, and it really all depends on the mood I’m in. At times I feel it’s superior to the original, but at the same time, I’m able to watch the original many many many more times than I am able to watch this film. But that opens up an entirely different argument I have quite often about watchable films verses quality.

Al Pacino and Diane Keaton had good performances, and with Robert DeNiro cast as the young Vito, the film instantly replaces the lack of Marlon Brando’s presence.

More than the first film, this film definitely does not glorify violence or the Mafioso lifestyle. The story paints two different pictures. Vito’s rise to power in New York and Michael’s devolution into corruption. Where Vito succeeds, Michael fails. Michael completely loses it by the end of the film, doing something that I personally find to be completely reprehensible, and shows that he’s lost the personal/business distinction.

The villains of this film are different that the first film, both being long time friends of the family. In the end they’re less “evil” than their Godfather part I counterparts, though just as ruthless. Pentangeli is a tragic figure, though it’s a shame that they were unable to get Richard Castellano to reprise his role as Clemenza. Probably the biggest failing in the entire film. The lack of Clemenza marginally undercuts one of the central themes of the film – especially when you compare Hymen Roth’s role in the film. Aside from that, Michael Gazzo’s role as Pentangeli works perfectly, even if we don’t really “know” the character before this point.

The final scene really underscores the fall of Michael. A tragic end to a tragic film.

***** out of *****

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I just finished watching this film for the first time in about 5 years. I agree with DeNiro's performance, he was incredible! As far as Michael, there is a world of difference between him and his father. Vito would never treat his wife and the members of his council the way Michael did.

Great movie though, I like it better than the original simply because it shows Vito's rise.