Monday, March 19, 2012


(December 1974, U.S.)

Is it really possible that THE GODFATHER-PART II is actually better than THE GODFATHER? Too many people seem to think so; film scholars, film critics and film fans alike. I suppose there ARE multiple reasons to back up a claim like that. After all, you have a stellar cast giving the greatest performances of their careers as well as a far deeper character study into Micheal Corleone and Vito Corleone as a young man in a second parallel storyline. That being the case, there must be something seriously wrong with me, because as much as I worship THE GODFATHER - PART II as a truly significant motion picture, there is that part of me that continuously returns to not only the beginning of the Corleone saga as the superior storyline, but also the weight and strength of Marlon Brando's character and presence on screen that truly makes the film the unique piece of art that it is. So there you have it, folks...I personally find THE GODFATHER to be a better film than it's much celebrated sequel. Don't kill me.

Having gotten that confession out of the way, let's take some time to focus on who Michael Corleone is now and who he's ultimately destined to become. When we last left him, he'd just gotten his feet wet in the corruption of the "family business" and was about to move his entire family out to Nevada where he could exercise his control over the gambling casinos. He has, in my opinion, become a truly frightening character by now because with the exception of a few selected moments of extreme Pacino-style yelling, he's a very quiet and very intense person who's learned to never let his enemies see him coming. When an attempted assassination against him in his home fails, he very cleverly manipulates both sides with a deceiving false sense of friendship and loyalty to weed out the traitor within his own family. What he cannot possibly fathom is the traitor being his own flesh and blood; his seemeingly weaker older brother, Fredo. It's a shocking idea to conceive and yet fiction is literally filled to the brim with stories of blood brothers betraying each other. It's also one of the oldest cliches that the answer to the big mystery will lie in the last place you'd ever think to look.

Keeping in mind that much of Micahel's strength and power comes from refusing to show any signs of weakness, it becomes clear in his own mind that there's only one way to deal with Fredo's betrayal, brother or not. It's almost hard to believe that even a criminal like Michael Corleone will sink to the lowest levels of Hell as to have his own brother murdred, but it would appear that one's true lust for power has no restrictions whatsoever. The line is crossed, betrayal is avenged and a soul is least until PART III, that is.

Taking a look at young Vito, his rise to power is based on a much simpler set of circumstances, though still tied into the premise of protecting one's family. By the sheer chance of losing his job one day due to Mafia influence and the illness of baby Fredo, Vito takes on a less-than-honest approach to life in order to make sure that his family never goes hungry. What begins as simple petty crime in an effort to survive inevitably becomes a hunger and lust for power that is passed down from father to sons. Ah, the American dream is alive and well!

So, just to recap, in the span of six and a half hours (both films together) we've seen a young man who started out as the symbol of decency and goodness who, in an effort to protect his family, slowly turned to the dark side and became the very thing he'd originally sought to avoid becoming. Say, is it just me, or does this sound a lot like the story of Anakin Skywalker?? I suppose the only real question with that is who came up with that idea first - Mario Puzo or George Lucas?

THE GODFATHER-PART II won the Oscar for best picture of 1974, the only film sequel to ever achieve that honor until the third LORD OF THE RINGS film in 2003.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Michael Corleone (after giving his brother the "kiss of death" on the lips): "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!"


  1. The two sit on a shelf next to each other and one has to wonder how can something that is perfect be more perfect than the thing next to it? A hard question to answer but one that I can try to answer from my perspective. The Godfather Part II has to create it's own narrative. The first film follows the book quite closely, and although much of the DeNiro section of the film is hinted at or even partially described, it also feels new and fresh. The musical fade out on young Vito Andolini as he sits in quarantine on Ellis island is one of the beautiful foreshadowing moments in the film. He is isolated and alone but he has his life to look forward to and he can even hum a tune to himself. Then look at Michael at the end of the film, isolated and alone, but as a result of his own actions. Nothing to look forward to, and only horror to look back on. What a set of bookends to start and leave us with. The dialogue is not as strong in Part II, but the visuals and music give us so much to remember that Brando is hardly missed. The scene where Vito stalks Fanucci across the tenement rooftops as the festival below shows the joy and life that is all about to change for the hunter and his prey, is beautiful and haunting. Haunting in the same way that Michael's last moments before killing Sollozo and McClusky are tension filled and equally life changing. Everybody in this movie is perfectly cast and plays their part on the nose.
    The power of the two films can be illustrated by a brief personal story. I took my girlfriend to see the two films playing together at a revival theater in Pasadena. As the first film ended, we started to get up to stretch our legs and maybe get a drink, but for some reason before we were even out of our row, the lights went back down and the second film played. We sat down immediately and did not miss a minute. Six and a half hours after it started, we actually spoke again, we had been transfixed for the whole time and not said anything. She never complained, she had not seen either movie before and I had seen them both a half dozen times each. She thanked me for bringing those films into her life and told me how impressed she was with both of them. That was when It began to dawn on me that maybe she and I were pretty compatible. That was 1976, we are still just as compatible.
    If you have not seen the short documentary on actor John Cazale "I Knew it was You", seek it out. It is a short film about a terrific actor who is the answer to one of the best Academy Award Trivia questions ever.

    Michael: I don't want anything to happen to him while my mother's alive.

  2. Yes, I saw it on HBO last summer. I don't think I ever knew that Cazale and Meryl Streep were once an item before I watched it.

    My wife has yet to watch any of THE GODFATHER films. She doesn't care for excessive violence. Regardless, I keep telling her I'm going to make her sit down and watch at least the first film with me so she can see for herself what a monumental saga it really is.

  3. Richard, to this day, I still get confused as to exactly what sort of deal is taking place between Michael and Hyman Roth. The details are never really explained. Can you help me?

  4. The Corleones are scheduled to make a big investment in the casinos of Havana, owned by Hyman Roth. It is part of the mainstreaming of the Corleone riches into legitimate business. Much like Sollozo, Roth thinks that others in the family will be more malleable than Michael. Michale of course keeps his own counsel and has doubts about Roth and his motives and as we see legitimate worries about investing in Cuba. The government officials in Cuba are bought and paid for, as are many American politicos. In N.Y Frankie Pantanelia is still old school and appears to be holding Michael back, which is why Roth's surrogates go after him and try to blame it on Michael, so the can alienate the Corleones from what is left of their muscle in NYC. There could be something else I missed that is unclear, but if you think of it let me know and we can ponder it. Thanks.

  5. No, THANK YOU! You definitely shed some extra light on things.