The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Cinematography Gordon Willis
The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York is portrayed while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on his crime syndicate stretching from Lake Tahoe, Nevada to pre-revolution 1958 Cuba.
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The Godfather Part II is a 1974 American crime drama film produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola from a screenplay co-written with Mario Puzo, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Partially based on Puzo’s 1969 novel The Godfather, the film is both sequel and prequel to The Godfather, presenting parallel dramas: one picks up the 1958 story of Michael Corleone (Pacino), the new Don of the Corleone crime family, protecting the family business in the aftermath of an attempt on his life; the prequel covers the journey of his father, Vito Corleone (De Niro), from his Sicilian childhood to the founding of his family enterprise in New York City.

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Whether considered separately or with its predecessor as one work, The Godfather Part II is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema. Many critics compare it favorably with the original – although it is rarely ranked higher on lists of “greatest” films. Michael Sragow‘s conclusion in his 2002 essay, selected for the National Film Registry web site, is that “[a]lthough “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II” depict an American family’s moral defeat, as a mammoth, pioneering work of art it remains a national creative triumph.”

After a careful restoration of the first two movies, The Godfather movies were released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on September 23, 2008, under the title The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration. The work was done by Robert A. Harris of Film Preserve. The Blu-ray Disc box set (four discs) includes high-definition extra features on the restoration and film. They are included on Disc 5 of the DVD box set (five discs).

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12 September 2004 | by OriginalMovieBuff21 (United States) – See all my reviews

After seeing The Godfather and improving it as one of my favorite films, I wanted to get more into The Godfather so I rented this. Words can’t describe how great this sequel was. The acting once again was amazing and the story and how the movie went on just never got me bored. Everything in this movie was clearly beautiful. The ending by far was my favorite when there all sitting at the table talking. There were so many great scenes like Vito when he was younger, Fredo at the lake, and many many more. You have to see this movie because it’s just brilliant filmaking. It’s not better than it’s first film but still an extremely worth sequel.

10/10

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Robert De Niro and Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather: Part II (1974)

To call it a sequel is a travesty

10/10
Author: taimur74
9 May 2001

This movie is way to be good to be labelled a sequel to The Godfather . Rather it is more of a companion piece to the original and the two perfectly compliment each other . IT is both a sequel and prequel showing the rise of the young vito and moral decline of Micheal . Both characters are brought to life with uncanny ability by Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino . To say that these two are good actors is like saying that a nuclear bomb makes a loud noise and in this movie they prove why they are at the top of their respective crafts .

Al Pacino is the standout in the ensemble cast and its amazing how his eyes have changed from the first part . They are now cold , ruthless and unemotional and betray the price which Micheal Corleone has paid for power .

Watch this movie and learn why it is the greatest gangster film of all time.

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Breathtaking in its scope and tragic grandeur…

10/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
10 March 2001
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Coppola’s masterpiece is rivaled only by “The Godfather, Part II” in which the 1940s setting of the first movie is extended backwards and forwards to reveal the corrupting effect of power…The film, breathtaking in its scope and tragic grandeur, shows two parallel stories extending two different time periods: the early career of young Vito Corleone seen first around the turn of the 20th century in Sicily, and then in 1917, building his criminal underworld in the Italian ghettos of New York City, post World War I, plus that of his son, Michael (Al Pacino) desperately trying to keep his family together…

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Al Pacino’s performance is quiet and solemn… He is cold and ruthless, with a whole contrast from the idealistic innocent war hero we initially met at the beginning of the first film… Here he’s a calculating and frightening force, seeking to expand casinos into Pre-Revolutionary Cuba and consolidating an empire surrounded by perfidy and treason, maintaining total confidence in his ability to control the situation whether testifying before enraging Senators or trying to outface his worst enemies…

The film’s haunting final shot of a lonely, isolated paranoid Michael in his empty compound, is an unforgettable movie scene, a tragic portrait of a lonely and fully damned person, emotionally empty and finished, far from a waspish wife, more distant from a faithful lawyer…

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De Niro’s rise, from an orphan child by a family feud back in Italy to a hood in New York and his position as a respected Don, provides a welcome break from Pacino’s relentless attitude… Since the people he kills seem to deserve it, Vito comes off better than Michael does, and it was wise of Coppola to shuffle the two stories together despite lengthy flashbacks and the disturbance of continuity…

The entire cast contributes greatly to the success of the film: Lee Strasberg, a fascinating mixture of lust and ruthlessness; G. D. Spradlin, absolutely right as the sinister and corrupt Nevada Senator; Michael V. Gazzo, unforgettable as the troubled gray-haired informer; Gastone Moschin, excellent as the blackmailer in white suit; John Cazale, marvelously timid as the vague, confused, and hesitant Fredo; Diane Keaton, clearly irrational as the long-suffering wife Kay; Talia Shire, too extravagant as the lousy mother; Troy Donahue too ambitious as the fortune-hunting suitor; and Robert Duvall excels as the confidant, and retainer to the all-powerful Corleone family…

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Coppola’s motion picture is not just a mere supply with new characters and events from the original, it’s a far more complex and intimate movie than its predecessor… It is not really a sequel… It’s just more… It cleverly shifts in time between two distinct narratives with extreme realistic violence and criminal mentality of gangsters…

Great ensemble acting, great story, greatest sequel ever made.

10/10
Author: (ballen8@hotmail.com) from Derbyshire, UK
1 February 2000

The Godfather Part 2 is the finest sequel ever made and is arguably a finer film than the original Godfather. The film is divided into two main parts – the story of a young Vito Corleone (flawlessly acted by Robert De Niro and a worthy Oscar winner) and the rise to power of Michael as the head of the family. Francis Coppola recollaborated with many of the crew members of the first film and again achieves a quite superb period piece thanks to the cinematography of Gordon Willis and set design of Dean Tavoularis.

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The acting performances are outstanding, hence three supporting oscar nominations for acting guru Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), Michael Gazzo (Frank Pentangeli) and Robert De Niro (young Vito Corleone). Duvall, Keaton, Cazale and Shire all provided first rate performances but it is the performance of Al Pacino which steals the show, expertly portraying Michael as a cool, calculating, suspicious Don Corleone. The film expands upon the original movie and brings us into the family’s activities in Nevada, Florida and Havana. Arguably the finest movie of the 70s, a cinematic masterpiece with the greatest ensemble acting you will probably see.

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Excellent, but could be in the dictionary under “sprawl”

9/10
Author: Brandt Sponseller from New York City
10 May 2005

Series note: It is almost unthinkable to watch this film without having seen The Godfather (1972) first. This is a direct continuation of that story.

The good news is that The Godfather Part II has many amazing qualities, including fantastic performances from a superb cast, sublime, unprecedented visuals that no one else has been able to capture since, and very engaging stories. The bad news is that this should have easily been a 10, but overall, it is so sprawling and unfocused that I can’t possibly give it more than a 9, which it only earns because the assets transcend what’s basically a mess overall. Because it should have been a 10, and most other reviews will tell you about the positive points at length, I may pick on more things in my review than you would think I would for a 9, but rest assured that even with the flaws, The Godfather Part II is still essential viewing.

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Director/co-writer Francis Ford Coppola cleverly begins the film with parallels to The Godfather. We see Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) “in the role” of his father, Vito (Marlon Brando), from the first film, accepting prostrating guests while a party is going on outside. Like the first film, the party consumes a lot of time while we get to know some of the principal characters. Perhaps during this segment, perhaps a bit after, we realize that maybe the beginning wasn’t so clever after all, because the structure of The Godfather Part II parallels The Godfather from a broad perspective, as if Coppola and co-writer Mario Puzo used the first film as something of a template to create this one.

After the party is over, there is an attempted hit on Michael, and we quickly learn that not everything is rosy in the Corleone’s mafia world. Michael believes that someone on the “inside” was involved with the hit. This launches a complicated sequence of events that has Michael, who is now living in Nevada, traveling to Miami, Cuba, New York, and so on. He accuses different people of involvement in the attempted hit depending on whom he is talking to. This may have all been part of a grand scheme to set up the responsible parties, but one of the flaws of the film is that Coppola doesn’t convey Michael’s underlying thoughts about this very well, not even later, and not through his actions. Rather than feeling like a clever set-up, it starts to feel like slightly muddled writing.

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During the middle section of the film, which goes on for hours, we also have a hint of a problem that plagued The Godfather–a bloated cast. There are bit too many characters who aren’t well enough presented or explained. You may need to keep a scorecard.

Coppola and Puzo also treat us to many extended “flashback” segments, and I mean way back, to Vito as a boy and young man, played by Robert De Niro. For my money, these were the best scenes of the film, although maybe that’s a bit of my bias creeping in, as I’m a huge De Niro fan.

But let’s talk about the main plague of the film–sprawl. This is maybe first evident in the flashbacks. As good as they are, they go on far too long, and happen far too frequently, to sustain the momentum of either the Michael story or the Vito-as-a-youngster story. It begins to feel like we’re toggling back and forth between two films, which is the track that should have been taken. The prequel, at least, would have been a solid 10.

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There’s also a lot of sprawl in the Michael Corleone segments. Coppola appears to have been suffering from what I’d now call “J.K. Rowling Syndrome”. That happens when an artist becomes successful enough that they can fire or ignore their editor(s). Instead of taking good advice about where to trim fat, the artist decides to just leave much of it in, and they now have the clout to override any dissenting and more sensible opinions. The Michael Corleone story has a lot of fat, including much of the Cuba material (for example, sitting around the table with the President, laboriously passing around a solid gold telephone), the Senate hearings (which go on far too long to make and provide the dramatic points), and so on.

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The film begins to feel more like a couple seasons of a television show that Coppola tried to cram into a 3 and a half hour film, or worse, a collection of deleted scenes. The scenes, except for the fat that needed to be trimmed, are excellent in isolation. But by the time the climax rolls around, the whole has more of an arbitrary feeling–this is especially clear in the dénouement, which seems to just end.

I’ve barely left myself room to talk about the good points. The first one, which most people mention, is the acting. There isn’t a bad performance in the film, but Pacino, De Niro, and some relatively minor characters, like those played by Diane Keaton, Talia Shire and John Cazale, really stand out.

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The second outstanding point, similar to the first film, is the beautiful visuals. Although all of the cinematography and production design is great, what really impressed me were some of the darkly lit scenes. Characters and features of sets emerge from pitch-blackness, and everything is rich, deep shades of burgundy, brown, and orange. Amazingly, nothing gets lost in these scenes. It must be incredibly difficult to achieve without making the shots too dark, because I can’t remember another film since that has been able to capture the same look. The flashback scenes are also in similar, but lighter, colors, creating an appropriate sepia-tone feel.

Although the broad perspective problems are unfortunate, a closer focus on most segments of the film provides exemplary artistry. Given that, and the film’s importance culturally, The Godfather Part II is a must-see.

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A Masterpiece

10/10
Author: JoshtheGiant from United States
15 October 2005

The Godfather Part Two is possibly the best film ever made, every part of this film is amazing, it is even better than the original, I was very surprised by this. The story is amazing, everything makes perfect sense. The Oscar winning screenplay is amazing, the dialogue is some of the most original, and realistic ever putt on screen, the characters are flawless, and it’s in every way perfectly written. The acting is just as fantastic, I can’t believe Al Pacino lost the Oscar, and for once Robert De Niro was even better, he was truly amazing, and interestingly he fails to say a single word in English. The direction is also amazing, Francis Ford Coppola even does a better job than he did in The Godfather, and Apocalypse Now. The visual effects are so much better than the amazing one’s in the original Godfather. One of the best films ever, a must see. Flawless.

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The Godfather Part II was shot between October 1, 1973 and June 19, 1974, and was the last major American motion picture to have release prints made with Technicolor‘s dye imbibition process until the late 1990s. The scenes that took place in Cuba were shot in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Charles Bluhdorn, whose Gulf+Western conglomerate owned Paramount, felt strongly about developing the Dominican Republic as a movie-making site.

The Lake Tahoe house and grounds portrayed in the film are Fleur du Lac, the summer estate of Henry J. Kaiser on the California side of the lake. The only structures used in the movie that still remain are the complex of old native stone boathouses with their wrought iron gates. Although Fleur du Lac is private property and no one is allowed ashore there, the boathouses and multimillion-dollar condominiums may be viewed from the lake.

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Francis Ford Coppola originally wanted fellow director Elia Kazan to play Hyman Roth, but Kazan passed on the opportunity. On the DVD commentary track, Coppola detailed how he visited Kazan with the request, and remembered that Kazan was bare-chested. As an homage, in Roth’s first scene, he is bare-chested when Michael Corleone visits him.

Unlike with the first film, Coppola was given near-complete control over production. In his commentary, he said this resulted in a shoot that ran very smoothly despite multiple locations and two narratives running parallel within one film

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