The Godfather, Part 2, Francis Ford Coppola – Director, 1974
- Where’s Brando? Does anyone care?
HOOK: Trying to understand what happened to America (not just the Mafia).
LINE: “Michael, we’re bigger than U.S. Steel.”
SINKER: Not only do we get to see Michael’s consolidation of strength as new, very corporate head of the Mob family moving West to open casinos in Las Vegas and the personal price he pays, we get to see how it all started in flashbacks to a righteous, young Vito’s rise from poverty to power during the early part of the twentieth century. What scope!
JOHN: Remember Al Pacino. I mean do you really remember him. When the music begins it goes straight to your heart. Like good poetry, a good movie alters your perspective on a subject forever. Like great poetry, this film offers something new each time you watch it. The seamless balance between the past and present creates a drama of opposites with layers of nuance. The rockpile of Scisily becomes a gala in Nevada where hypocrisy continues to play out. It’s dark inside (the film is in color but all night and silhouettes). What do we, the audience, come to Michael (the Godfather) for. We have to see through this darkness but can’t. Let’s face it, we’re not Michael or even Diane Keaton. We are Fredo.
GO, GO, GO, GO (4 GOs out of four)
SPANKY: Just when you think an actor couldn’t be any better than Pacino, along comes DeNiro—jumping roof tops of NYC’s Little Italy as the dirge of a religious parade snakes through streets below. He is the avenging angel, and that is who we the audience are too, John. But that’s what makes the ending so incredibly strong. After a cascade of violence we get a close-up of Michael Corleone’s sitting in the near dark of his boat house. There is silence following the gunshot killing his brother. Silence, and then after a moment the theme music kicks in again. We know it’s not the end, even if part three were never added. This is James Agee and Walker Evans made new. This should be required viewing every ten years. This is an American masterpiece.
“TWO PAWs Up” (4 BARKs out of four)
GOSSIP: Interestingly, in order for Coppola to make the first “Godfather” film in New York, he had to agree not to use the words “Mafia” or “Cosa Nostra” anywhere in it (the film refers to the Mob as the “family business” and the “syndicate,” instead). Otherwise, the New York Mob might have caused trouble with the production. The gangsters, though, liked what they eventually saw. Also that Coppola initially wanted Sir Laurence Olivier to play Don Vito Corleone, but novelist Mario Puzo wanted Brando, and Brando won out, thanks to his own eager desire to play the role and despite Paramount’s less-than-enthusiastic appraisal of the idea. In fact, the studio showed its displeasure with most of Coppola’s choices for the major roles, including using relative unknown Al Pacino as young Michael which almost pushed things to the point of the studio firing the director. Brando later said he tried to imitate gangster Frank Costello’s voice in the movie, but he had to redub some of his dialogue because it was so hard to understand. Everyone assumed Brando would come back to star in the sequel, but he said he had done the first film as a social comment on American corporate power and had no interest in doing another one. The fact that Paramount still didn’t want much to do with the tempestuous Brando probably added to the actor turning down the role. So, Coppola worked around him, filming a few scenes with the older Don present but out of the room. By the way, if the Corleone estate at Lake Tahoe looks impressive, it should be; it was the property of former industrialist Henry J. Kaiser.